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Manitoba retail sales hit $1.4B in September

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MANITOBA posted one of the biggest increases in retail sales in the country in September, new Statistics Canada figures show.

The agency said the province's retailers sold $1.4 billion worth of goods during the month. That was an increase of 1.2 per cent from the $1.39 billion worth sold in the previous month.

Manitoba was one of only five provinces to see an increase in sales from August to September. Its gain was the second biggest after Alberta's 1.7 per cent.

The September total was also a 1.7 per cent improvement from a year earlier, when $1.38 billion worth of sales were sold. It was the fifth-biggest increase among the eight provinces that posted year-over-year gains.

Nationally, Statistics Canada said retail sales edged up in September, helped by improved sales of new cars. But they fell short of expectations amid increasing signs of economic uncertainty.

Sales were up 0.1 per cent to $39.1 billion -- the third-straight monthly increase -- but fell well short of the 0.5 per cent consensus expectation of economists.

"Indeed, sales growth has now cooled to a humble 1.8 per cent year-over-year as Canadian retailers face some stiff challenges," BMO Capital Markets economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a note to clients.

"In addition to cooling domestic consumer credit growth, this weekend's likely stampede of shoppers south of the border will highlight the other challenges -- a loonie near parity, more generous duty-free limits and more aggressive U.S. sale prices."

The weaker-than-expected retail sales results came as Statistics Canada also reported the number of people receiving regular employment insurance benefits in September was down by 5,700 at 525,900.

Economist Erin Weir of the Progressive Economics Forum said the survey "indicates that the number of unemployed workers is growing. The drop in EI recipients means that more jobless workers are falling through the cracks."

-- staff / The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 B15

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