Consumers spent more on cars and in big chain stores in June, but gas prices held back retail sales.
According to the Commerce Department, retail sales in the United States rose only 0.1 percent last month. That follows a 0.1 percent decrease in May, which was the first time in 11 months that retail sales fell. Excluding automobiles, retail sales were stagnant in June.
As spring supply disruptions stemming from the Japan crisis were put to an end, auto sales increased 0.8 percent. Sales at general merchandise stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, increased by 0.4 percent.
Falling gas prices pushed station sales down 1.3 percent. Consumers, however, are still paying nearly a dollar more for gas than they did a year ago. A rising unemployment rate has made many consumers more cautious about spending. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent last month, the highest rate this year. The economy added just 18,000 in June, the fewest in nine months.
Analysts hope the economy will regain momentum in the second half of the year if gasoline prices moderate.
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