SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) _ Jamesway Corp., a mid-Atlantic discount retailer with 90 department stores, laid off half its headquarters staff Thursday in anticipation of re-entering bankruptcy protection, the company said.

Jamesway is considering a Chapter 11 filing in light of continued weak sales, extensive operating losses and increasingly restricted credit, said personnel director Tom Corcoran, reading from a company statement.

The chain announced last week that bankruptcy was possible, less than 10 months after it emerged from 1 1/2 years of Chapter 11 protection and began trading in its new common stock.

The layoffs affect about half of the more than 400 workers in the company's central office here.

Corcoran declined to comment on plans for the company's 5,500 employees at stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, an investor group, including Whippoorwill Associates Inc., sold all of its Jamesway shares.

From Sept. 28 to Oct. 11 the group sold 616,286 common shares at prices ranging from 38 cents to $1.50 a share, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jamesway operated 122 stores in 1992, but closed 14 before its bankruptcy filing in July 1993. It closed 18 more before emerging from bankruptcy Jan. 30.

Jamesway has not been profitable since 1990, when the company earned $5.8 million on sales of $872 million. The company lost $38 million on sales of $722 million last year.

Jamesway appeared to be the latest in a series of regional retailers hit by lower profit margins and increased competition from national chains. Others to stumble recently include Connecticut-based Caldor Corp. and Smith Home Furnishings in Oregon.