Retail sales tick up in June
WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales increased slightly in June, evidence that consumers remain cautious despite steady job gains this year.
Retail sales rose just 0.2 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, held back by a sharp drop at building and garden supply stores. Sales also fell at restaurants and at auto dealers.
The figures suggest that Americans still are reluctant to spend freely, limiting growth in the April-June quarter. While employers have stepped up hiring since January, wage growth remains weak and barely is keeping up with inflation. Retail sales are watched closely because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
Still, employers are hiring at a healthy pace. Employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs a month in the first half of this year, up from 194,000 a month in 2013. That’s knocked the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent, the lowest in nearly six years.