Sales for U.S. Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International members declined 4.7 percent in September, the association said.

HARDI economist Andrew Duguay said the drop was not a surprise, with the uncertainty generated by the presidential election.

“Over the past few months, there was a notable hesitation to make large-dollar investments,” he said. “Businesses may be holding off on purchases in order to write them off next year in the case of higher tax rates or simply waiting to decipher the economic and political climate post-election. Consumers, uncertain of what their disposable income may be in 2013, appear to be stalling and weighing their options.”

Brian Loftus, HARDI’s market research and benchmarking analyst, said sales may stay soft for a while.

“Inventories are increasing in all regions and revenues per employee clearly peaked early in the summer,” Loftus said.

Regardless of the how the elections turn out, a recession is unlikely, Duguay said.

“Our most reliable, leading indicators are not suggesting a recession in the macro economy,” he said. “So the negative numbers we are seeing today are more likely short-term hesitation among businesses and consumers, rather than a systemic long-term trend toward recession.”