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J.C. Penney furloughs staff, extends store closures amid pandemic

March 31 (Reuters) - J. C. Penney Co Inc said on Tuesday it would furlough a majority of its hourly staff and salaried associates next month, the latest U.S. retailer looking to weather the financial strain from store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Furloughed employees will continue to receive full health benefits and many are eligible to receive state unemployment benefits, the company said, adding it would extend store closures until it was safe to reopen.

Macy's, Kohl's, Gap and other retailers have taken similar actions amid lockdowns imposed to curb the rapidly spreading outbreak, which has so far infected more than 163,000 and caused over 3,000 deaths in the United States.

Many of the Penney's workers in supply chain and logistics centers were previously furloughed on March 20, and those furloughs will continue, the company said.

The company employed about 90,000 full-time and part-time employees as of Feb.1, according to its latest annual filing. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)