STORY: U.S. retail sales barely rose in May, as inflation and higher interest rates forced many households to prioritize their spending.

Sales data for April was also revised lower.

The report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday suggests that economic activity remained lackluster in the second quarter, bolstering economists' expectations that the Federal Reserve could start cutting interest rates as soon as September.

That's despite central bankers just last week predicting only one rate cut this year, likely to come in December.

While the labor market remains strong, it too is showing cracks, with those losing their jobs finding it harder to land new ones, and wage increases moderating.

The pace of spending is still likely sufficient enough to sustain economic expansion, but could cause economists to trim their second-quarter GDP estimates.