• The Associated Press


Retail sales retreated by the biggest margin in seven years in February, the government said Friday, as growing concerns about jobs and wages deepened the country’s shopping slump.

Retail sales fell 5.8 percent from a year earlier to ¥9.98 billion — the sharpest decline since February 2002, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The figure marks the sixth straight month that sales have fallen at retail outlets like department stores and supermarkets.

As domestic consumption drops, the economy is also being pummeled by plunging demand for autos and electronics from the rest of the world. The country has long relied on exports to drive growth. In February, exports tumbled by a record 49 percent.

The fallout now appears to be accelerating among homes and stores. February’s drop in retail sales is more than double January’s 2.4 percent decline, though the fall stems in part from lower revenue at gas stations.

Business at department stores, which tend to reflect spending on luxury goods and premium items, was especially bleak in February. Sales plunged 11.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the Japan Department Stores Association.

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