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Commerce Department: Sales Show Serious Slump

Adding to the documentation of economic uncertainty, the U.S. Commerce Department last week 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.

While the gasoline and food and beverage components were both up for the month, everything else — what Commerce calls "retail trade sales" — were down 1.2% from August and were 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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