The October decline in retail sales may be temporary, economists said. Kavic noted that auto sales may pick up in November as Americans replace cars damaged by the hurricane.
Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast on Oct. 29 and disrupted businesses from North Carolina to Maine. The storm also lowered auto sales last month by about 30,000, according to TrueCar.com. Overall, car sales dipped to an annual pace of 14.3 million in October, down from a 14.9 million pace in September.
The storm cut retail spending in the Northeast by about 20 percent last week, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, a retail data service. That figure excludes auto sales.
The Northeast accounts for about 24 percent of retail sales nationwide, the MasterCard Advisors' report said. It typically generates $18.7 billion in sales for the week ended Saturday. But sales that week fell to about $15 billion.The storm also cut power to roughly 8 million homes and businesses. Some are still without power. That may have had an impact on online sales. Retail sales are likely to rebound this month, analysts said, because Americans are spending more on repairs and making up for lost shopping trips. The Commerce Department's retail sales report is closely watched because it is the government's first look at consumer spending each month. Hiring has picked up in recent months, which has boosted consumer confidence. Employers added 171,000 jobs in October and job gains in August and September were higher than first estimated. The unemployment rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent as more of those out of work began searching for jobs. A survey by the University of Michigan last week found that consumer sentiment improved for the fourth straight month to its highest level in five years.