Only three days after President Obama used his final State of the Union address to paint a rosy picture of the nation’s well-being as part of his ongoing attempt to create a favorable legacy of peace, prosperity and achievement, reality stepped in to contradict his assessment of the U.S. economy.

The president told the American people, “Anyone claiming America’s economy is in decline is “peddling fiction,” in the annual address to Congress on Tuesday night, possibly without having read the increasingly distressing financial news coming from the nation’s largest retailers and employers, as Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer announced massive layoffs, calling the move “necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future,” according to CEO Doug McMillon.

The international chain, which revolutionized American shopping habits with its all-inclusive “supercenters” offering everything from groceries to furniture and clothing to office supplies, will be closing 154 stores in the United States potentially impacting as many as 10,000 employees. An additional 115 stores will be closed abroad.

Wal-Mart said it would attempt to place laid-off employees in nearby stores and provide severance to those who are unable to find other employment.

Although the Arkansas-based behemoth comes in for heavy criticism from liberals who often denigrate Wal-Mart shoppers, the chain had tried to enter the inner-city markets with its Wal-Mart Express stores that were smaller and better suited to urban shoppers who were not as likely to make large-scale shopping forays once a week, as their suburban counterparts.

The move is partially in response to the inroads online giant, Amazon, has made on so-called “brick and mortar” stores, but also a sign of the general weakening of the economy and financial instability around the world.

Walmart’s stock fell 30 percent last year to its lowest level in five years, joining other retailers like Gap, Best Buy, and Macy’s who had weak holiday performances.

The National Retail Federation, an independent industry trade group released figures indicating that holiday sales rose only 3 percent over 2014 and well below the anticipated 3.7 percent growth.




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