In a bit of a surprise, the Commerce Department just reported that retail sales edged down 0.1% in July from June. Analysts had expected Commerce would say sales rose slightly.
There were drops in sales of furniture, appliances and building materials. Car sales, boosted in part by the "cash for clunkers" program, went up 2.4%.
But Commerce also said sales rose more than it had thought in June. It revised its data to show a 0.8% increase from May, a change from the 0.6% previous estimate.
Another report also was a surprise: The Labor Department just said more people filed first-time claims for jobless benefits last week — 558,000 vs. 554,00 the week before. There had been hope the number would go down.
But as with the retail sales report, there was also a glimmer of good news in what Labor had to say. It reported that 6.2 million people were receiving jobless benefits, down from 6.34 million. Some of the decline may have been because benefits ran out for some people, but others also likely picked up work.
Trying to follow how the economy's doing. So is Planet Money.