Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A delayed report outlining retail sales in December was released Thursday, and it showed sales around the holiday season tumbled 1.2 percent -- its largest decline in almost a decade.
The Census Bureau report said the drop was comparable to September 2009, a few months into the Great Recession. The figures indicate retailers faced a stock market decline, the start of the partial government shutdown and poor weather conditions.
The report had been delayed because of the 35-day federal shutdown.
"Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for December 2018 ... were $505.8 billion, a decrease of 1.2 percent ... but 2.3 percent above December 2017," the report said.
The report said total sales for 2018 were up 5 percent and sales from October through December increased 3.7 percent, year-to-year.
Gas stations, seeing big drops in fuel prices, saw sales fall 5.1 percent while brick-and-mortar retail stores experienced a 3.3 percent fall. Some analysts were surprised by the 3.9 percent fall in Internet sales of the same period.
The drop comes on the heels of healthy job numbers for January, when more than 300,000 jobs were added to the economy, significantly easily beating projections.
"It's a puzzle. Strong job gains, wage growth, and the drop in gasoline sales should be very supportive of consumer spending growth," analyst Scott Brown of Raymond James said.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, doesn't believe the negative numbers are the start of a trend.
"These data are so wild that we have to expect hefty upward revisions, but if they stand, they are very unlikely to be representative of the trend over the next few months," he said. "The consumer is no longer enjoying tax cuts or falling gas prices, but that's no reason to expect a rollover."