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Ohio's holiday retail sales forecast for growth above national rate


CINCINNATI — Lower gas prices along with Ohio's overall economic improvement make for a jolly state holiday retail sales outlook above national projections, according to an annual forecast released Monday.

The University of Cincinnati Economics Center projects retail sales to rise 4.2 percent in the November-December period for an anticipated $15.8 billion in sales, up $600 million over the 2014 season. The National Retail Federation expects holiday spending this year to be up nationally by 3.7 percent, to $630.5 billion. Holiday shopping will get a boost later this week with Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales.

UC researcher Michael Jones said the state has seen growth in jobs and wages, while unemployment has stayed lower than the national rate.

"If you look at the overall economic picture in terms of the economic growth and certainly unemployment ... you can see that Ohio continues to be stronger than the nation," Jones said.

The Ohio forecast is done in conjunction with the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and uses sales data and a variety of economic indicators in its model. The UC center last year forecast 4.5 percent holiday sales growth, with final figures showing 4 percent growth, Jones said.

He said consumer confidence measures have been bouncing back to levels not seen since before the recession.

"So the stronger consumer confidence is going to increase that forecast," Jones said.

Gas prices, also lower in Ohio than the national average, have continued to tumble, leaving extra cash in consumer pockets for the holidays. A survey released Monday found the state's average for a gallon of regular gas was $1.83, down from $2.75 a year ago.

Surging job growth in the Cincinnati area should help produce the state's biggest regional sales growth at a projected 5.6 percent, Jones said. Columbus, at 4.6 percent, and Toledo, at 3.8 percent, are also forecast for a holiday sales increase above the national rate.

Other regions and their forecasts are Youngstown at 3.6 percent, Dayton at 3.3 percent, Akron at 3.1 percent and Cleveland, where job growth has been slower, at 2.3 percent.

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