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With online merchants taking an ever-bigger chunk of the retail business, many national chains have announced store closures and thousands of layoffs, including Macy's, American Apparel, the Limited, Sears and Abercrombie & Fitch. On the other hand, warehouses and distribution centers are seeing growth. In one respect, the new jobs are much like the old.

"They're both very low, hovering near the bottom of the labor market in terms of hourly wages," said Cathy Ruckelshaus at the National Employment Law Project.

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