Manhattan apartment sales fell for the fourth straight quarter and prices for the most expensive apartments dropped for the first time since the recession began as the national housing slump hit the metropolitan area.

Fourth-quarter transactions dropped 9.4%, to 2,282 units, from a year earlier, the New York property appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. and the brokerage Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report issued Tuesday. While the overall median sales price rose 5.9%, luxury prices dropped 3.9% and the median for all resale apartments slid 3.6%.

The recession and the global credit crisis may cost the city as many as 175,000 jobs. Finance jobs drive the Manhattan market.

Employment at investment banks accounted for almost 15% of the city's total privately paid wages in the first quarter of 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The end of the year marked the beginning of Manhattan's entry into a new kind of market," said Jonathan Miller, Miller Samuel's chief executive. "For all of 2008 we were seeing a fairly sharp decline in the number of transactions every quarter. Now we are starting to see prices decline."

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