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Irish Retail Sales Fall for Second Month as Unemployment Rises

Irish retail sales fell for a second month in August as jobless claims increased and a housing slump continued, the country’s central statistics office said.

Retail sales fell 0.4 percent from the previous month, when they dropped 1.5 percent, the Cork-based statistics office said in a statement today. From a year earlier, sales declined 3.6 percent in August. Excluding autos, retail sales dropped 0.5 percent on the month and 3.7 percent on the year.

Irish consumers are being squeezed as the government raises taxes and cuts government workers’ wages to reduce the budget deficit. The unemployment rate rose to 14.4 percent in August and home prices fell, extending a slump that began in 2007, separate reports this month showed.

“Until consumers have a clear line of sight regarding their household finances and feel better about their employment prospects they will remain reluctant to spend,” Torlach Denihan, director of lobby group Retail Ireland, said in a statement. “The crux is the lack of consumer confidence. The budget in December will have an enormous impact.”

Sales of books, newspapers and stationery fell 13.3 percent in August from a year earlier, the statistics office said, while sales of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals fell 10.4 percent. Sales at department stores slipped 3.7 percent.

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