Sept. 17, 2012 – Retail sales in August were up 0.9 percent, the strongest monthly increase since February, but the gain was driven almost entirely by auto sales and higher gas prices, noted NAFCU Staff Economist Curt Long.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported the data Friday. Gas stations led retail sales growth in August with a 5.5 percent increase, reflecting the fact that prices rose considerably during the month, Long said. Other retail sales contributors included motor vehicle and parts dealers (1.3 percent) and building material and garden supply stores (1 percent).
Sales were down most severely for electronics stores (-1.4 percent), general merchandise stores (-0.3 percent) and clothing and accessories stores (-0.1 percent). “If you exclude auto sales and gas stations, as seen in core sales, then retail sales in August only advanced 0.1 percent,” Long said.
The core sales number is particularly noteworthy, Long said, because it means core sales growth has now been at or below 0.1 percent in four of the past five months. Total retail sales excluding light vehicles increased 0.8 percent in August.
On a year-over-year basis, retail sales grew from 3.9 percent to 4.7 percent. Year-over-year core retail sales increased by 3.6 percent, while retail sales excluding motor vehicles rose 3.4 percent from a year ago.
Looking ahead, NAFCU expects consumer spending and retail sales growth to remain muted until the job market rebounds.
For more, view NAFCU’s Data Flash.