2011 Retail Sales Strongest Since '99

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Retail sales in December rose to $400.6 billion, an increase of 0.1 percent but less than the 0.3 to 0.4 percent many economists had expected.

Customers responded to deep discounts during the holiday season though analysts are waiting to see if consumers will continue their spending pace in 2012.

The Commerce Department today revised November's retail sales figure to an 0.4 percent increase from 0.2 percent.  The figure was 6.5 percent above sales in December 2010.

Retail sales were boosted in part by strong car sales in December. Excluding automobiles, retail sales dropped 0.2 percent.

For the year, total sales increased 7.7 percent from 2010, the strongest year since 1999, Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported weekly jobless claims were 399,000 for the week ending Jan. 7, an increase of 24,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 375,000.

The report followed December's unemployment report which showed a better-than-expected addition of 200,000 jobs for the month. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent.

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