The economy has performed worse than analysts expected yet again, according to retail sales data released today. April sales fell 0.4 percent from the previous month. Year-over-year data were even worse, as sales fell 10.1 percent when compared with April 2008.
The drop is particularly disappointing given the performance for the first two months of the year, when sales rose. After sales fell 1.3 percent in March, economists predicted that the numbers would flatten out. Instead, April was the second consecutive month that sales declined.
The category that was hardest hit? Electronics and appliances, where customers made 2.8 percent fewer purchases than they had in the previous month. Gas stations also found April a tough month, with their sales falling 2.3 percent. There were a couple of bright spots. Business at restaurants and bars rose by 0.2 percent, and sales of motor vehicles and at parts dealers were up. Overall, though, the picture is gloomy.
The data underscore what economists have been saying all along: The recession is far from over. The unemployment rate, which climbed to 8.9 percent in April, is expected to hit 10 percent before beginning to improve near the end of 2010. Economic growth isn't predicted to return until the end of this year, at best.