Americans Cut Back on Spending, Retail Sales Down in April

Retail sales south of the border declined last month, as Americans cut back their spending on clothes, appliances, and home and garden supplies.

Figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department revealed retail sales dropped 0.2% in April, after a big 1.7% jump in March. The March figure was revised upward from the originally reported figure of 1.6%.

Car sales dropped 1.1% last month and sales at electronics and appliance stores dropped 1.3%.

Overall consumer spending, which includes haircuts and travel, jumped in March by the most in nearly a decade, but that followed small increases in the previous two months. As a result, even though the economy grew a healthy 3.2% at an annual rate in the first quarter, consumer spending grew at a modest pace and was not a primary driver of that growth.

The department goes on to say that weakness in sales last month was widespread. Sales at clothing stores fell 0.2% and plunged 1.9% at home and garden supply stores. Furniture store sales were unchanged. Even the category that includes online retailers dropped. Excluding the volatile auto and gas categories, retail sales also fell 0.2%.