U.S. retailers last quarter suffered their darkest days since the recession.

With results in from 62 of 122 retail chains, the industry has posted its first profit quarterly drop since the economic contraction that ended in 2009, according to Retail Metrics Inc. Revenue also rose at the lowest rate since that year, the research firm found.

The results paint a grim picture of an industry hit hard by the sluggish job recovery and slow wage growth, which have turned U.S. consumers into a nation of penny pinchers. Earnings are expected to drop 6.1 percent on average during the holiday quarter, according to Retail Metrics data. The broader pool of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies, meanwhile, are estimated to see profit rise 8.5 percent.

‘It was a very tough season for the retailers, no question about it,” Ken Perkins, president of Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics, said in a phone interview. ‘They were facing pressure on multiple fronts.”

Still, some chains are predicting a rebound this year. Target Corp. (TGT) — which saw profit and revenue tumble last quarter, in part because of a hacker attack — said yesterday that sales have shown signs of improvement this month. Macy’s Inc. also predicted that spring would […]

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