Retail sales fell drastically last month due to harsh winter weather that deterred shoppers from leaving home. According to the Commerce Department, sales dropped 0.6%.
Sales declined 1.4% at department stores, 1.2% at electronics and appliance outlets and 0.1% at furniture stores. Sporting good stores, however, increased 2.3% in sales and gasoline sales also jumped 1.5%.
The February report makes it the third consecutive month that the industry has experienced downward sales. USA Today reports that the the prior lows in January and December were due to falling gasoline prices.
Since June, shoppers have been slow to spend their savings from the fallen oil prices. USA Today says this is in part because “wage growth has been meager.” Economists predict prices to rise, however, as consumers are more and more convinced that the low gas pump prices are here to stay.
This decline in retail sales is particularly interesting because the industry has been one of the leaders in restoring jobs in the economic recovery. Last month, 32,000 retail positions were filled. While the sales were at a record down last month, overall employment was at a record high. As many as 295,000 jobs were added to the economy.
With spring soon approaching, the warm weather may encourage more shoppers to get out and help boost retail sales.