RETAIL SALES RISE FOR SIX MONTH IN A ROW

RETAIL SALES RISE FOR SIX MONTH IN A ROW

Despite Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s expectations of only moderate economic growth this year, Americans are less worried about losing their jobs and more willing to spend money.

This change in attitude is reflected in the numbers. The Commerce Department reported that retail sales were up in December, the sixth month in a row, making for the strongest holiday sales retailers have seen in recent years.

Sales rose 0.6 percent last month to $381 billion, lifting sales for the year by the largest amount in more than a decade.

Speaking to the Senate Budget Committee last week Ben Bernanke expressed the hope that “a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold.”

Despite the private sector adding 113,000 last month and 50,000 jobs in November, Chris Christopher, the IHS Global Insight economist who conducted the analysis, expects the unemployment rate, currently 9.4 percent, to remain above 9 percent in 2011.

“Businesses are hiring people, but they’re not hiring them at a fast enough rate because they’re waiting to see consumer spending increase more. They’re still a little hesitant,” Christopher said.

Consumers are hesitant, too, according to Scott Hoyt, Senior Director of Consumer Economics at Moody’s Analytics.

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