The National Retail Federation forecasts a 3.8% to 4.2% increase in holiday season sales for 2019, bringing the total to between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. The numbers don't include car dealers, gas stations or restaurants. The average growth for the last five years is 3.7%. For 2018, the growth was 2.1% to $701.2 billion, with the final tally impacted by issues like the government shutdown. Despite the bullish forecast, the organization highlights the ongoing unease due to news coming out of Washington D.C. "[T]here has clearly been a slowdown brought on by considerable uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric," Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement. "Consumers are in good financial shape and retailers expect a strong holiday season. However, confidence could be eroded by continued deterioration of these and other variables." That uncertainty was also a focus from AlixPartners in its holiday forecast. While the NRF supports the renegotiation of trade terms with China, Shay said on a call with the media that the group doesn't agree with the tariff tactic, a sentiment the group has previously expressed. Seasonal hiring is expected to grow to 530,000, down from 554,000 last year. Companies like Macy's Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201854387/composite M +4.45% and Gap Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206554267/composite GPS +1.59% have already announced their seasonal hiring plans, with Macy's in line with last year and Gap cutting its hiring in half. The Amplify Online Retail ETF /zigman2/quotes/206522380/composite IBUY +0.03% is down 8.6% over the past year, the ProShares Decline of the Retail Store ETF /zigman2/quotes/200757065/composite EMTY -0.92% has gained 23%, the SPDR S&P Retail ETF /zigman2/quotes/206947004/composite XRT +0.32% is down 17.7%, and the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.34% has slipped 1.5% for the period.