Retail sales in debt-stricken Spain fell sharply in December 2010, recording a decline in sales for the sixth consecutive month.

Retail sales in the eurozone’s fourth largest economy fell 4.4 percent in December annually following a 1.1 percent drop in the previous month, the statistical office INE said on Thursday.

While the food sales decreased by 2.2 percent on yearly basis, sales of non-food items dropped 4.8 percent.

Also, the data showed that employment rate in the retail sector declined by 1.3 percent in December year-on-year.

Spain is facing the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone at around 20 percent.

Overall, retail sales in 2010 fell by 1.7 percent compared with the previous year.

Last month, Moody's Investor Services said that it had put Spain's Aa1 debt rating under review for a possible downgrade taking into account the large debt burden of the country and its funding needs next year. The nation will need 170 billion euros ($228 billion) in 2011.

The budget deficit of Spain, which accounted for 11 percent of GDP in 2009, was the third-biggest in the euro region.

Madrid introduced stringent austerity measures six months ago to save 15 billion euro and avert a debt crisis. This included civil servant salary cuts and scrapping of bonus payments to new mothers.