US retail sales fell for the third month in a row in June as consumers continued to cut back on their spending, according to Department of Commerce data released this week, raising new concerns about the country's economic recovery.

Retail sales were down 0.5% month-on-month, but were 3.8% higher than June last year. US retail spending fell 0.2% in May.

The Census Bureau figures showed clothing and clothing accessories stores recorded a 0.2% increase in June compared to May, rising 3.5% year-on-year; for department stores, the figures were down 0.7% and down 3.2% respectively; and for sporting goods stores (also including books and music), the figures were down 1.6% and up 4.4%.

The National Retail Federation said June's figures implied that persistently-high domestic unemployment, stagnant job growth, and international economic unease "have taken a toll on American consumers this spring".

Its data showed June retail sales (excluding automobile, gas stations and restaurants) fell 0.4% seasonally adjusted from May but increased 1.7% unadjusted year-over-year. This year-over-year increase marks 24 consecutive months of sustained retail sales growth.

"There is no doubt consumers struggled with discretionary spending last month, but many families may be looking at this as a temporary break as they save up for back-to-school shopping in July and August," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

"Weak economic numbers over the past few weeks have increased anxiety about the future direction of the economy," added NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. He said the latest data is "discouraging but not demoralising".

"If you look at the first half of the year overall, retail sales actually increased 4.6% year-over-year, indicating that the economy is improving but maybe not quick enough to impact consumer spending and job growth."