Americans holding on to their money

Americans holding on to their money

Americans holding on to their money

NEW YORK — Americans, beset by product shortages, rising prices and the arrival of omicron, sharply cut their spending in December after a burst of early spending in the fall that helped bolster the holiday season.

Retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.9% in December compared with the previous month when sales increased 0.3%, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday.

Sales at department stores fell 7%. restaurant sales slipped 0.8% and online sales fell 8.7%.

Omicron was identified by the World Health Organization in late November, and the December report from the Commerce Department is the first to capture some of its effect on consumer behavior.

The monthly retail report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending and doesn’t include money spent on things like haircuts, hotel stays or plane tickets, all which tend to see business tail off when anxiety about COVID-19 tick higher.

The Biden administration has also been criticized for for continuing to send federal assistance to people...prompting many to stay home rather than return to the workforce. That has led to widespread worker shortages in the the retail sector, and supply shortages have curtailed what they can sell. Stores and restaurants have slashed operating hours or remained closed on days they had previously been open because they cannot find workers.