Retail sales fell 0.4% in April, the Commerce Department said on May 13. The retail sales index, which is seasonally adjusted but not for price changes, was 10.1% below the April 2008 level.
The April decline surprised most analysts, who had expected no change from March sales.
The Commerce Department said that retail sales dropped a revised 1.3% in March, up 0.1 percentage point from the initial estimate.
April marked the second consecutive month of a decline in retail sales, after two months of increases that had snapped a six-month pullback last seen in the early 1980s.
"This is a disappointing report," said Ian Shepherdson at High Frequency Economics. "There is no momentum in spending; the freefall is over but shredded balance sheets and declining incomes mean a broadly flat trend is about the best we can expect," he said, adding "greens shoots withering."
Automobile sales, which have tanked amid the recession, rose 0.2% in April but remained 20.7% below the year-ago level. Excluding auto sales, the retail sales index dropped 0.5% in April after a sharper 1.2% decline in March.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009