Shoppers are just not spending.
Retail sales fell by 0.5 percent month over month in June, government data showed Monday, in a sign that concerns about the struggling recovery, and especially jobs, are taking their toll on consumer outlays.
It was the third straight month that retail sales have fallen and the first time that has happened since 2008.
The report lays bear the concerns that have darkened the outlook of business activity for company economists. A widely-watched survey of them showed that only 39 percent said sales have been rising faster than inflation at their companies, down from 60 percent three months ago.
The report adds to a spate of weak economic data that is raising pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November reelection bid. Republican challenger Mitt Romney is focusing his campaign on the weak economy that has plagued Obama's presidency.
The weak retail sales also could raise hopes that the Federal Reserve could launch another bond-buying program to help the economy.
Job creation in the United States has slowed dramatically in the last few months, and recently the country's factory sector also showed signs of contraction.
The retail data is particularly worrisome because it suggests consumer spending, which drives about two-thirds of the economy, is also sagging.
Sales of motor vehicles and parts dropped 0.6 percent last month. Receipts at electronics and appliance stores declined 0.8 percent. Sales of building materials slipped 1.6 percent, while receipts as gasoline stations dropped 1.8 percent.
Excluding autos, sales fell 0.4 percent.
A so-called core measure of retail sales, which excludes autos, gasoline and building materials, dropped 0.1 percent.
Reuters contributed to this report.