WASHINGTON — Retail sales fell for the first time in nine months in July, hurt by the General Motors Corp. strike. But excluding car sales, consumer demand remained solid, government reports showed Thursday.
The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.4% to a seasonally adjusted $224.7 billion last month, the first decline since last October, after rising 0.1% in June.
But the drop in sales, smaller than analysts' forecasts of 0.8%, was concentrated at auto dealers, where sales fell 3%, the steepest decrease in 15 months.
Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.5%, boosted by demand for building supplies, furniture, food and gasoline.
Other reports Thursday pointed to a strong job market and robust consumer confidence.
The Labor Department said new claims for state jobless benefits fell 7,000 to 301,000 in the week ended Aug. 8, well below economists' forecasts of 312,000.