The Bloomberg Eurozone Retail Purchasing Managers' Index, an indicator based on a mid-month survey of economic conditions in the euro area retail sector and providing data one month ahead of government issued figures, fell a record 6.4 points from 48.2in March to a survey low of 41.8 in April. This signals the steepest monthly decline in sales since data were first collected in January 2004.
Retailers blamed a combination of bad weather, the timing of Easter, poor consumer confidence, squeezed household budgets due to rising food and energy prices for the steep drop in sales at the start of the second quarter. In Italy, ongoing political uncertainty was an additional factor cited by retailers.
German sales fell sharply, with the rate of decline similar to the three-and-a-half year record seen at the turn of the year. The index dropped from 51.5 to 44.6, representing a marked turnaround from the growth seen in February and March.
The combination of rising non-staff costs and weak sales caused employment in the Eurozone retail sector to fall marginally in April, following marginal gains in the first three months of the year (the index fell from 50.1 to 49.5). A slight rise in French retail employment was countered by a small decline in Germany and a larger fall in Italy, where the rate of job losses in the past two months has been higher than at any time since late 2004.
Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.