Retail spending dropped 0.5 percent in June, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That followed a 1.1 percent fall in May. Excluding autos, spending was down 0.1 percent in June.
Much of the weakness last month came from a drop in auto sales and a decline in gasoline prices. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales would have risen 0.1 percent in June after having plunged 1 percent in May.
Americans are spending less and that could threaten the pace of the recovery. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. But consumers have held back because of high unemployment and other signs that have dampened their confidence, such as the volatile stock market and a struggling housing market.
The June decline in retail sales was larger than the 0.2 percent fall that economists had expected.
The overall number was dragged down by a 2.3 percent plunge in auto sales, the biggest monthly drop since auto sales fell 2.5 percent in February.
Also, falling fuel prices pulled down gasoline stations sales by 2 percent.
Some industries showed signs of strength in June. Department stores sales posted a 1.1 percent gain. The larger category of general merchandise stores, which includes such big retailers such as Wal-Mart, posted a 0.2 percent increase, but that followed a 1 percent drop in May.