WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. retail sales slumped last month in a sign consumers remained frugal even as gas prices declined and hiring picked up.

WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. retail sales slumped last month in a sign consumers remained frugal even as gas prices declined and hiring picked up.

The Commerce Department says retail sales fell 0.9 percent in December, the largest decline since January. Gas station sales retreated sharply due to lower prices, but sales in most other categories also fell.

Excluding the volatile categories of gas, autos, building materials and restaurants, sales dropped 0.4 percent after rising 0.6 percent in November. Online and mail-order sales fell 0.3 percent, the most since April.

The figures suggest that stagnant wages are still weighing on many Americans. Average hourly pay slipped in December, the government said last week, and rose just 1.7 percent last year. That's only slightly ahead of the 1.3 percent inflation rate.