From NPR News in Washington, I'm Barbara Klein.
Retail sales fell more than 1% in March, the biggest decline in three months, and a surprise to most analysts who expected sales to increase slightly. According to the Commerce Department, automobile sales fell the sharpest, down nearly 24% from the year before. Consumers also spent less on appliances, furniture and clothing. Meanwhile, President Obama today said his economic efforts are starting to have a positive effect, but he cautioned that 2009 will continue to be a difficult year. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.
President Obama used his speech at Georgetown University to stitch together a variety of economic initiatives he's taken during his first 12 weeks in office. He said the most urgent task has been to clear away the wreckage from a downward spiral of falling home prices, frozen credit and accelerating job losses.
"And since the problems we face are all working off each other to feed a vicious economic downturn, we've had no choice but to attack all fronts of our economic crisis simultaneously."
Mr. Obama offered a point by point defense to some of the more controversial efforts, to prop up the insurance company AIG, for example, may end an attempt to salvage General Motors and Chrysler. He also outlined plans for longer term efforts to put the economy on a stronger foundation. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.