WASHINGTON — Consumers cut back on car-buying in April but boosted spending in a number of other areas, giving evidence of the economy's staying power in spite of soaring gasoline prices.

The Commerce Department said that retail sales overall dipped by 0.2 percent last month but much of that weakness stemmed from a 2.8-percent plunge in car sales, the biggest setback in this category in 10 months.

Excluding autos, retail sales rose by a surprisingly strong 0.5 percent. This better-than-expected showing outside of autos was seen as evidence that the consumer is hanging tough even in the face of soaring gasoline prices and a slumping economy.