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US retail sales basically flat in July; recent job growth fails to boost consumer spending

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FILE - In this June 5, 2014 photo, Conquisia Tyler, right, gives change to a customer at Sam's Club in Bentonville, Ark. The Commerce Department releases retail sales data for July on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham, File) (The Associated Press)

U.S. retail sales were essentially flat in July, providing evidence that consumers have yet to shed their doubts about the economy despite recent job gains.

The Commerce Department says seasonally adjusted retail sales were unchanged in July compared with the prior month. Spending dipped at auto dealers and department stores. The losses were offset by gains at grocery stores, gasoline stations, restaurants, clothiers and building material stores.

The figures suggest that Americans are hesitant to spend, which could limit growth for the economy. Retail sales are closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

Retail spending has flat-lined even though employers have added more than 200,000 jobs a month for the past six months. But those gains have yet to boost wage growth significantly above inflation.