Holiday sales projected to increase 4%

October 25, 2012: 9:53 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

A weak jobs market and slow growth won't be enough to stifle consumer spending this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, which predicted Tuesday that holiday sales this year will increase 4.1% to $586 billion.

Holiday sales rose 5.6% last year, and have risen 3.5% on average over the past decade, the NRF said. The industry group defines "holiday sales" as retail industry sales in November and December excluding car dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

NRF president Matthew Shay said the projection of 4.1% growth was "the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession."

"In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we'll see solid holiday sales growth this year," Shay said in a statement.

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"Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the 'fiscal cliff' and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers' spending plans, but overall we are optimistic that retailers' promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."

The NRF also acknowledged the struggling jobs market and weak income growth as concerns, but pointed to recent data on consumer confidence and home prices as reasons for optimism.

Online sales this year are projected to increase 12% to around $96 billion. Retailers are expected to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers, in line with last year's total of 607,500, the NRF said.

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