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Retail sales drop in April


New York City Sales at U.S. retailers fell for a second straight month in April as consumers continued to curtail their spending, according to a government report on Wednesday. The drop surprised economists, who had expected retail sales to be flat in April.

According to the Commerce Department, total retail sales slipped 0.4% after falling by 1.3% in March. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, sales dipped 0.5% in April, compared with a 1.2% decline the prior month.

While the pace of decline in retail sales slowed from the prior month, the report dampened expectations of a quick end to the nation's ongoing recession.

Even with an Easter holiday in April, people still cut back on groceries, apparel and gifts, the report shows. Sales at electronic and appliance stores decreased 2.8% seasonally adjusted from March, and 11.9% unadjusted from last year. Clothing and clothing-accessories stores sales decreased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.0% unadjusted year-over-year.

Grocery stores sales also decreased 1.1% seasonally adjusted from last month, but increased 0.5% unadjusted year-over-year.

"A depressed labor market and lack of consumer confidence continues to play a role in what people buy and how much they spend,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. “Noticeable changes in consumer spending will take some time as the economy continues to rebuild itself through the rest of the year.”

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