NEW YORK (AP) -- HOLIDAY SALES FORECAST: The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, expects sales to rise 4.1 percent during the holiday shopping period in November and December .
BEHIND THE NUMBERS: The growth is more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years and the smallest increase since 2009 when sales edged up just 0.3 percent. The forecast is still higher than the average holiday growth of 3.5 percent over the past 10 years.
WHY IMPORTANT: The projection shows that shoppers are still grappling with an uneven economic recovery. Retailers depend on the last two months of the year for up to 40 percent of annual sales.