A woman in San Francisco reflected in a Macy's window as she looks at a Christmas display
A woman in San Francisco reflected in a Macy's window as she looks at a Christmas display - 
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Steve Chiotakis: While there are signs the recession is easing, millions of Americas aren't seeing it yet when it comes to job prospects. The House is taking up emergency legislation this week to provide 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits. And yeah, a lot of people are out of work, there are already plenty of calculations out there for what the holiday shopping season may look like. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: Retail expert John Melaniphy tracks retail sales all over the country. But he was struck by what Chicago's sales tax receipts showed during the first six months of this year. Sales in the metro area fell $2.5 billion in the first quarter -- and they kept dropping.

John Melaniphy: In the second quarter of the year, they declined by $3.3 billion. That along with what retailers are doing tells me that we haven't hit the bottom. And I think we're gonna have a very frugal holiday season.

He says Chicago's a good barometer for much of the country.

Britt Beemer heads America's Research Group. He says his latest survey shows just how tight-fisted shoppers are:

Britt Beemer: Amazingly, consumers said Americans will not start spending again till January or June 2012.

He says so many people out of work, paying off debt or afraid of losing a job, this holiday season is likely to be worse than last year's.

I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.