US retail sales declined sharply in December 2021 to fall well below market expectations, according to figures released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

Retail sales came in at $626.8 billion, plummeting 1.9% from the previous month’s revised figure of $639.1 billion.

The market expectation for December was a 0.1% drop, while the figure in November was revised down to 0.2% from 0.3%.

The annual change in December 2021, however, was a 16.9% increase from the same month of 2020, when the economy was trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Gasoline stations were up 41% from December 2020, while food services and drinking places were up 41.3% from last year,” the Census Bureau said in a statement.

The contraction in retail sales suggests that high inflation continues to be a major problem for the US economy and American consumers.

The Consumer Price Index rose 7% in December, the largest 12-month increase since June 1982, the Labor Department announced earlier this week.

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