Sales are up 3.6 percent over 2018, according to NRF.
2018 holiday sales grew 2.9 percent amid turmoil over trade policy and delay in data collection.
NRF forecasts retail sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent.
Retailers hired 576,800 seasonal workers for holidays.
Retail employment nearly unchanged from September.
The September numbers come as retail continues a long-term pattern of increased sales.
Overall, U.S. businesses added 134,000 jobs over August, the Labor Department said.
NRF forecasts holiday sales will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent.
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