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October 15, 2014 8:40 AM, EDT

Retail Sales Decline in September

Eric Paparatto/Flickr

Retail sales in the U.S. dropped in September, reflecting a broad-based pullback that signaled consumers took a breather.

The 0.3% decrease followed a 0.6% August gain that was the biggest in four months, Commerce Department figures showed in Washington. The median forecast of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 0.1% decline.

The pickup in hiring has failed to spur bigger gains in wages, which means households have yet to see the kind of jump in purchasing power that will drive sustained increases in demand.

“There’s still a big divergence between upper-income folks and those in the middle or the bottom,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. “They haven’t really seen any big wage gains or anything like that, so people who are employed aren’t really seeing their incomes rising enough to keep track with actual costs of living.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a drop of 0.5% to a 0.3% gain. August and July retail sales were unrevised.

The figures used to calculate GDP, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations decreased 0.2%, the first drop since January, after rising 0.4% in August.

Eight of 13 major categories showed decreases last month, four were up and one was little changed. Those seeing a decline in demand included auto dealers, service stations, furniture stores and building material merchants. Purchases at clothing stores dropped 1.2%, the most since October 2012.

Sales fell 0.8% at automobile dealers, the most since January, after a 1.9 % increase the prior month.