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Commerce Department: Retail sales in serious slump    

Washington – Adding to the documentation of economic uncertainty, the U.S. Commerce Dept. today issued its advance estimate of seasonally adjusted U.S. retail and food services sales for September: $375.5 billion, a dreary drop of 1.2% from August 2008 and a fall of 1.0% from September 2007.

Essentially, retail sales are down to a level not seen since August 2007 – suggesting a whole year of growth has been foregone. Sales peaked in June 2008 at $384.1 billion, and have fallen off since.

And most painful, while the gasoline and food and beverage components were both up for the month, everything else – what Commerce calls “retail trade sales” – was down 1.2% from August and was 1.4% below September 2007.

Particularly hard hit, the furniture and home furnishings stores component, at $8.84 billion, was down 10.7% from September 2007.

General merchandise stores, at $50.08 billion in volume, were up 3.4% from September 2007, a rise likely attributable to higher prices for consumables.

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