Retail sales slowed significantly in April by John Kell @FortuneMagazine May 13, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons FORTUNE — Retail sales grew 0.1% in April from the prior month, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, an increase that fell short of economists expectations.Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a 0.4% increase in April. The muted growth comes after poor winter weather led to choppy retail sales early in 2014. Auto makers and brick-and-mortar retailers broadly lamented severe storms that led to weaker traffic at their showrooms and stores.The Commerce Department also upwardly revised its March sales growth estimate to 1.5%.Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output.MORE: Wall Street starts the week with a bangThe disappointing retail sales data could temper hopes for an economic rebound. Earlier, a report showing U.S. small business confidence had returned to pre-recession levels offered some hope that the economy is regaining momentum after stalling in the first three months of 2014.U.S. small business sentiment rose to its highest level in over 6 years in April, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said a report. The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index rose 1.8 points to a post-recession high of 95.2 last month. It was the index’s highest reading since October 2007, when the economy was on the edge of recession.Observers have said they expect retail sales to rise this year as demand is bolstered by a modest recovery in the job market, as well as economic growth and an improving housing market.MORE: Job openings dipped in MarchU.S. employers continue to add jobs, which can help lift consumer discretionary spending. The federal government recently reported U.S. employers added an estimated 288,000 nonfarm jobs in April, which pushed the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage point to 6.3%.On a sequential basis, retail sales results in April were hurt by lower sales at electronics and appliance stores and furniture and home retailers. The auto industry again was a bright spot in the report–as motor vehicle and parts dealers retail sales increased 0.6%.Clothing and clothing accessories sales were also strong, up 1.2% in April from March. Health and personal care, food and beverage, and gasoline stations all posted increases.