Retail sales in the United States plunged 2.7 percent in December 2008, marking a record sixth consecutive monthly drop, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
The drop, which followed a decrease of 2.1 percent in November, was more than double the 1.2-percent decline that analysts had expected.
For December, the weakness was widespread as all areas of retail sales showed declines.
Auto sales tumbled 0.7 percent, steeper than the 0.3-percent decline in November.
Retail sales were also down at department stores, specialty clothing stores, furniture stores, hardware stores, restaurants and gasoline stations.
The 15.9-percent drop at service stations was heavily influenced by the big decline in gasoline prices during the month.
For all of last year, retail sales declined 0.1 percent, in contrast to a 4.1-percent gain in 2007. It was the first time the annual retail sales figure had fallen, according to government records going back to 1992.
Before 2008, the weakest year for retail sales had been 2.4 percent in 2002, the year after the 2001 recession.
The decline in retail sales for six straight months, a stretch of weakness never before, was a reflection of the economy that has been in a recession for a whole year.
(Xinhua News Agency January 15, 2009)