January 23, 2021

Everything you need to know about furloughs—and what they mean for workers during the coronavirus pandemic

Monday brought more bad news for American workers, as companies continue to lay off employees to cope with the economic damage of the coronavirus outbreak and the related lockdown.

This time, Macy’s made the biggest headlines with the news that it will be furloughing the majority of its 130,000 employees. The department store giant—which also owns and operates Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury—said that despite continuing to sell items online, it has “lost the majority of our sales” since closing all of its stores on March 18.

Macy’s is far from alone. Gap Inc. also announced that it would be furloughing most of its retail workers in the U.S. and Canada on Monday—“pausing pay but continuing to offer applicable benefits until stores are able to reopen,” the company said in a press release. And dozens of companies as diverse as Marriott, General Electric, Everlane, and The Cheesecake Factory have taken similar measures, ranging from furloughs to temporary and permanent layoffs.

With more economic hurt almost certainly in the cards, some estimates predict the number of unemployed people will reach a stunning 47 million in the weeks and months to come. Here’s what they need to know.

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