AP Economics Writers
January 14, 2010, 3:50 pm EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — Retail sales unexpectedly fell in December, leaving 2009 with the biggest yearly drop on record and highlighting the formidable hurdles facing the economy as it struggles to recover from the deepest recession in seven decades.
In another disappointing economic report, the number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week as jobs remain scarce.
For the year, sales fell 6.2 percent, the biggest decline on government records that go back to 1992. The only other year that annual sales fell was in 2008, when they slipped by 0.5 percent.
In the jobs report, the Labor Department said new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000. Wall Street economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected an increase of only 3,000.