Make us your home page
Instagram

Retail sales fell in March, second straight monthly drop

 Americans pulled back on their spending at auto dealers and restaurants in March, causing retail sales to drop despite signs of a healthy job market.
[Associated Press file photo]

Americans pulled back on their spending at auto dealers and restaurants in March, causing retail sales to drop despite signs of a healthy job market. [Associated Press file photo]

WASHINGTON — Americans pulled back on their spending at auto dealers and restaurants in March, causing retail sales to drop despite signs of a healthy job market.

Retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent, the Commerce Department said Friday, after a revised 0.3 percent drop in February. But over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 5.2 percent, a sign that that the economy remains on stable footing.

Related coverage: Retailers continue to struggle with no saving grace in sight

Still, there are signs that consumers are growing more cautious even though the unemployment rate declined in March to a low 4.5 percent. Steady job growth as the recovery from the Great Recession nears its eighth year and a bump in consumer sentiment following President Donald Trump's presidential election have yet to strengthen spending much.

Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial, said the decline might reflect a natural retreat after strong consumer spending in the final three months of last year.

The improving job market and rising household net worth should keep the economy in solid shape, he suggested.

"None of those things point to a structural slowdown in consumer spending," Moody said.

Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, cautioned, though, that the retail sales figures are "impossible to square with the stratospheric levels of consumer confidence."

The divergence suggests either an acceleration in retail sales later this year or a decline in consumer confidence.

"We expect a bit of both," Shepherdson said.

Since the start of 2017, Americans have cut back on purchases at auto dealers and restaurants and bars, two major sources of sales gains in prior years. Sales tumbled 1.5 percent last month at auto dealers and 0.6 percent at restaurants and bars. It was the second straight monthly drop in sales for both categories.

Spending at building materials stores also fell in March. And sales were lower at gasoline stations, though that likely reflected lower energy prices rather than waning enthusiasm from consumers.

Some of last month's pullback in retail sales was offset by rising purchases at department stores, clothiers and electronics outlets. Still, sales at those businesses have been sluggish over the past year.

One bright spot has been online retailers, which continue to thrive. Sales at non-store retailers improved 0.6 percent in March and have surged 11.9 percent during the last 12 months. More consumers are migrating away from physical stores to online outlets.

Retail sales fell in March, second straight monthly drop 04/14/17 [Last modified: Friday, April 14, 2017 10:58am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sells house for $3 million to new player

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman's multi-million Davis Islands home is staying in the Lightning family. Yzerman sold his 6,265-square-foot house Monday to new defenseman Dan Girardi for $3 million.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman sold for $3 million Monday to Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. | [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  2. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce

    Business

    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  3. Florida: White man who killed black person to be executed

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  4. Can the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl thrive in competitive sports market?

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's a funky name: the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. But the new sponsors for the former St. Petersburg Bowl might need more than an eye-catching name to create a thriving, profitable contest.

    NC State head coach Dave Doeren clutches the championship trophy after winning the Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg in 2014. Bowl organizers are changing the name of the game to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
[

MONICA HERNDON | TIMES]
  5. Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car

    Autos

    SAN FRANCISCO — As new employees were brought into Apple's secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company's next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry.

     In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Luminar CEO Austin Russell monitors a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested five years after he co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Apple says it will scale back its amitions to build a self-driving car.  [AP Photo/Ben Margot]