WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales growth slowed in April, with consumers shopping less online and cutting back on purchases of furniture and electronics.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that seasonally adjusted retail sales rose just 0.1 percent last month, after surging 1.5 percent in March following a harsh winter that had curtailed shopping.
Several economists said the April figures might have been depressed because of seasonal adjustments connected to a later than usual Easter. Still, the modest sales suggest that consumers may remain cautious during the still-slow economic recovery. Higher sales would help drive faster growth because consumers account for about 70 percent of the economy.
Auto sales increased 0.6 percent in April, and purchases at clothing stores were up 1.2 percent. But most of those gains were offset by declines in spending at restaurants, online retailers and furniture and electronics stores. Excluding autos and gasoline, retail sales fell 0.1 percent last month.
Wages have not budged much during the recovery, and growth has struggled to eclipse 3 percent, the average annual gain after World War II.
The Commerce Department previously reported that the economy grew just 0.1 percent in the January-March quarter. That figure could slip into negative territory as the government revises it, according to several economists.
But the brutal winter depressed the economy during the first quarter, and economic indicators since then have pointed to stronger growth in the current April-June quarter. Many economists are looking for a rebound to an annual growth rate of around 3 percent in the current quarter and similarly solid readings for the rest of the year.
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