FARMINGTON — New data from the city of Farmington paints a sobering picture of declining retail sales in the city.

Revenue from December sales dropped 1.3 percent compared to a year ago, indicating a weak Christmas season for local retailers.

At Animas Valley Mall, sales during the holiday season were about even with a year earlier, said General Manager Jeff Ring.

"We feel that the economy may be stabilized, and we've been pretty pleased with the sales," he said.

Nevertheless, there is broad concern in San Juan County regarding the fragile economy. Natural gas production in northwest New Mexico has fallen for six consecutive years. Employment is expected to drop at Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine due to a partial shutdown later this year.

And the population of Farmington and San Juan County has dropped, according to the Census Bureau. Farmington lost an estimated 639 residents from 2010 to 2011. San Juan County in the same period lost an estimated 1,844 residents.

Andy Mason, director of administrative services for the city, said the retail gross-receipts data are a reliable indicator of retail sales in the city.

"Generally speaking, yeah, I would say sales are down if everything's fairly consistent," he said.

City revenue was down in several retail sectors, including basics such as grocery stores. Revenue from that sector fell to $27,453,033 in November compared to $27,657,970 a year earlier.

"I think everybody kind of expected the end of last year and throughout much of 2013 that people are going to be hanging onto their money again because of uncertainty on the state and national level," said Dorothy Nobis, Farmington Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer.

"Although it's unfortunate that (revenues) are down, it's not surprising they're down," she said. "I would hope February, March, April look better."

Spring income-tax returns could boost the retail economy, Nobis said.

Declining retail tax revenue in Farmington stands in stark contrast to Durango, Colo., which has seen 26 consecutive months of year-over-year sales tax revenue increases. Revenue grew 5.7 percent there in 2012.

Despite reduced revenue from retail sales, city of Farmington officials say the budget is on track because of revenue increases in other areas.