US retail sales fell in November for the first time in seven months

Market trading boards are seen at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney, Friday, February 9, 2018. ( AAP Image/Ben Rushton) NO ARCHIVING

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U.S. retail sales in November fell for the first time in seven months, suggesting consumers are pulling back on spending amid a surging pandemic and expiring federal aid.

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The value of total sales declined 1.1% from the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday. It marked the first month-over-month drop since April, when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses around the country to close and shoppers were directed to stay at home.

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The slowdown follows a spike in COVID-19 infections nationwide, which has triggered some state and local governments to impose new restrictions on businesses.

The report revealed that the weakness was spread across a number of industries, but the biggest drop in sales was at department stores, down 7.7% last month. Sales also fell at clothing and electronic stores.

Consumers, facing the loss of key unemployment lifelines put in place earlier this year with the passage of the March CARES Act, reined in their spending despite the start of the holiday season. Shoppers mostly stayed home on Black Friday, which is typically the busiest day of the holiday shopping season.

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Consumers, also facing the loss of key unemployment lifelines, reined in their spending despite the start of the holiday season.

Crowds at malls and stores were thin after health officials warned people not to shop in person. Retailers followed suit by putting their best deals online. Half as many people shopped inside stores this Black Friday than last year, according to retail data company Sensormatic Solutions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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