Commerce Department report finds consumer confidence lacking.
August retail food and services sales were virtually unchanged from the previous month and slightly lower than private sector forecasts, the Commerce Department announced today. Retail trade sales excluding automobiles were up 0.1 percent from July, below expectations of a 0.3 percent rise. Automobile sales in August decreased 0.3 percent after rising 0.2 percent in July, due in part to persistent inventory issues for Japanese manufacturers and the effects of Hurricane Irene, the Commerce Department said. But retail food and services sales were 7.2 percent above August 2010, while total sales for June through August 2011 were up 7.9 percent from the same period a year ago. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in a statement that these increases reflected “healthy annual growth” and pushed for the passage of President Obama’s American Jobs Act “to restore the American people’s confidence in Washington and the economy.” Analysts say that confidence is lacking due to the struggling job market and high unemployment. Another report from the Commerce Department finds that inventories rose just 0.4 percent in July, an indication that companies are steeling themselves for a slowdown in demand.