The Commerce Department said this week that U.S. retail sales increased by 0.1% in April, a marked slowdown following a strong end to the first quarter. Core retail sales, meanwhile, which don’t take into account purchases of cars, gasoline, building materials and food services, actually fell 0.1% last month, data showed. Most economists expected retail sales to improve by about 0.5% last month.
Sales at clothing stores jumped 1.2% in April, while auto sales rose 0.6%. Consumers spent much less on electronics and furniture, though, and sales at restaurants also slumped by 0.9% last month, according to the Commerce Department. Sales at so-called non-store retailers, which include online sites, dropped nearly 1% as well.
As April numbers weakened, the Commerce Department revised other numbers upward. For March, government data showed retail sales rose 1.5%, up from a previously reported 1.2%. The March gains represented the biggest one-month jump in two years. Retail sales account for roughly one-third of consumer spending in the U.S. and are closely watched as a signal for economic expansion or contraction.