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Chain-Store Retail Sales Soared in November; Weekly Jobless Claims Rose

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Thursday’s chain-store sales data confirmed initial reports of a shopping frenzy over the Black Friday weekend following Thanksgiving, even though the number of Americans filing jobless claims data rose last week.

The Thomson Reuters same-store sales index, based on 27 retailers reporting, showed an increase of 6% for November, versus analysts’ expectations for only a 3.6% gain.

The index confirmed the National Retail Federation’s Black Friday survey predicting that more shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend—and spent more—than a year ago. A total of 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend, up from 195 million last year, the survey said. People also spent more, with the average shopper spending $365.34, up from last year’s $343.31. Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion.

Retailers ranging from department store chain Macy's, discounter Target and teen clothier Abercrombie & Fitch all reported far bigger-than-expected gains in sales at stores open at least year, Reuters reported.

“This was a huge day for a lot of retailers, even with the promotions,” said Chandi Neubauer, a retail analyst with New York-based ITG Investment Research, on Thursday. “Where historically promotions have often looked desperate and felt kind of sad, the promotions that we saw over Black Friday weekend were exciting and punchy and fun. While the markdowns may have been similar to when retailers were just trying to get inventory out the door no matter what it took, the mood has just been a lot more upbeat.”

American shoppers have proved to be undaunted by the nation’s high jobless rate, Neubauer added.

“In the overall scheme of things in retail, there’s a lot more optimism in the mall. Unemployment numbers haven’t really changed that much, so I don’t know what it was specifically, but we have been feeling more optimism,” she said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that in the week ending Nov. 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 436,000, an increase of 26,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 410,000. However, the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure of joblessness, decreased 5,750 to 431,000 from the previous week's revised average of 436,750.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. Economist for High Frequency Economics, said in an analyst note, "The core story here, we think, is that firmer demand and easing credit conditions for smaller firms are allowing them to hang on to people who might otherwise have been let go. Things are still bad in the small firm sector, but we think they are becoming less bad.

This Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will release its closely watched jobs report, which will include the nation’s unemployment rate in November.

Read about Cyber Monday and Black Friday retail sales at


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