Retail and food services sales edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.1%, to $434.6 billion,   for April, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens as PDF) released today. 

After jumping a revised 1.5% for March following a rough winter for retail, this latest report failed to meet analyst expectations of a 0.4% boost. 

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve. 

Top-line numbers look even worse when accounting for more volatile automobile and gasoline sales. Auto sales increased 0.6% for April, putting retail sales, less motor vehicles, at zero growth from March to April. Analysts had expected 0.6% growth. When excluding gasoline's 0.8% month-over-month gain as well, retail sales actually headed into the red with a 0.1% contraction.

Outside of these two sectors, clothing stores led sales with a 1.2% increase, while electronics and appliance stores lagged with a 2.3% drop.

As the effects of the winter's polar vortex weather wore off in April, many economic indicators have gone haywire for the month. For longer-term investors, annual numbers give a better hint at growth rates. Over the last year, retail sales are up 4%. Auto sales have soared 9.8%, while sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores have seen sales slump 2.1%. 

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.