WASHINGTON – Americans pulled back on their spending at auto dealers and restaurants in March, causing retail sales to drop despite signs of a healthy job market.
The Commerce Department says retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent last month. This followed a revised 0.3 percent decline in February. Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 5.2 percent.
But there are signs that consumers are becoming cautious. Sales at auto dealers tumbled 1.5 percent last month, while purchases at restaurants and bars dropped 0.6 percent.
Spending at gasoline stations and building materials stores also fell. The decline was partly offset by rising sales last month at department stores, clothiers and electronics outlets, but sales at those businesses have been sluggish or falling over the past year.