Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, biggest drop in 7 months

NEW YORK — Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, the biggest drop in seven months, and a sign Americans held back on spending during the start of the holiday shopping season.

The U.S. Commerce Department also revised October’s number, saying today that retail sales fell 0.1% that month, instead of rising 0.3% as it previously reported.

Americans have cut back on spending after losing a $600 weekly boost to unemployment checks that expired over the summer. A surge in coronavirus infections nationwide is also keeping Americans from spending.

Shoppers mostly stayed home on Black Friday, which is typically the busiest day of the holiday shopping 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 Commerce Department said the biggest drop in sales was at department stores, down 7.7% last month. Sales also fell at clothing and electronic stores.

Wednesday’s report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays, which have been badly hurt by the pandemic, are not included.