Washington D.C. Retail sales plummeted the largest amount on record in October amid the struggling economy.
The Commerce Department reported that retail sales fell by 2.8% last month, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65% drop in November 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that year.
The 2.8% drop marked the fourth consecutive monthly decline in retail sales and was much bigger than the 2% fall economists expected.
A 5.5% plunge in auto sales fueled the biggest drop since August 2005. Auto companies reported unit sales fell to the lowest level in 17 years as potential buyers stayed away from auto showrooms.
Excluding autos, retail sales fell by 2.2%, also a record decline, underscoring the widespread weakness last month.
The retail sales report showed that sales at general merchandise stores, the category that includes big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and department stores, fell by 0.4%, while sales at specialty clothing stores were down a bigger 1.4%.
Sales at furniture stores dropped by 2.5%, with sales at appliance stores and sporting-goods stores also showing declines.