Retail Sales Drop 0.2 Percent in August Led By Sluggish Auto Sales

(CN) — Retail sales dropped by the largest amount in six months in August due to a sharp decline in auto sales, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Retail fell 0.2 percent last month after a gain of 0.3 percent in July. Analysts attributed much of the decline to disruptions caused by Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast.

The government said this was the biggest one-month decline since February, and it was driven by a 1.6 percent fall-off in auto sales.

That decline was the biggest in the past seven months.

If one sets aside auto sales, the decline in consumer spending was just 0.1 percent in August. Consumer spending other than auto sales rose 0.5 percent a month earlier.

But there were some bright spots in Friday’s report. For instance, the government reported that sales rose at big-box retailers.

Also, gasoline sales were up 2.5 percent in August, the biggest jump since last December.

The consumer sector, which contributes to 70 percent of economic activity, is benefiting from the lowest unemployment rates in 16 years and continued strong hiring.

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