Retail Sales Growth Slowest Since '99

Retail sales grew at the slowest pace in nine years in December as unemployment rose and wages shrank, pushing the economy further toward recession, the State Statistics Service said Tuesday.

Sales increased an annual 4.8 percent, the lowest growth rate since December 1999, down from 8 percent in November, the service said. The result outpaced the median forecast of 12 economists surveyed by Bloomberg for 3.1 percent growth. Retail sales rose 16.7 percent in the month ahead of New Year's.

A pillar of growth in recent years, consumer spending is slowing as wages and disposable incomes fall and unemployment rises.

Retail sales, fed by rising consumer borrowing, have increased at an average annual rate of about 13 percent since 1998. Sales grew 13 percent in 2008, the statistics service said.