WASHINGTON - Retail sales dropped 0.5% to $401.5 billion in June after declining an unrevised 0.2% in May, the Commerce Department reported Monday.
The June decline defied the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 0.2% increase. June marked the third consecutive monthly decline in overall retail sales, the longest streak since sales fell each month between July and December 2008.
On a year over year unadjusted basis, retail sales were up 3.8% for 2012, compared to June 2011.
Excluding autos, retail sales were down 0.4% in June after dropping 0.4% in May. The economists had projected retail sales excluding autos to remain unchanged in June.
Excluding autos and gas, retail sales fell 0.2% in June after falling 0.1% the previous month and excluding autos, gas, and building materials, sales fell 0.2% after rising 0.3% in May.
A 1.8% drop in retail gasoline sales led the decline in overall retail sales, and building equipment and garden equipment and supplies dealers saw sales slip 1.6%. Those losses were too large to be offset by stronger sales from nonstore retailers and clothing stores.