November 16, 2023

October retail sales decline for 1st time since March

data flash chart

Total retail sales increased 0.1 percent in October, compared to a 0.9 percent increase in September. NAFCU Vice President of Research and Chief Economist Curt Long analyzed the report in a new NAFCU Macro Data Flash report.

“Total retail sales decelerated for the first time since June and fell for the first time since March, dropping by 0.1 percent month-over-month,” said Long. “October sales returns were expected to be weak due to the sharp drop in gas prices, but the slowdown was evident across numerous sectors. Control group sales rose by 0.2 percent month-over-month in a sharp reversal from September's spike. Broadly speaking, the decline in spending is tracking with slower growth in aggregate labor income as hiring, wage growth, and hours worked taper.”

Sales within the control group – which excludes the auto, gas, and building material categories and is the basis of the Commerce Department's estimate of personal consumption expenditures – increased 0.2 percent in October.

Monthly growth in retail sales was mixed. Gains were led by health and personal care stores (+1.1 percent), food and beverage stores (+0.6 percent), and electronics stores (+0.6 percent). Losers included furniture stores (-2 percent) and auto dealers (-1.1 percent). 

“Federal Reserve officials will be pleased to see a controlled decline in consumption, which is critical for achieving a soft landing. In conjunction with the downside surprise from the latest CPI report, NAFCU believes the Federal Reserve has hit its terminal rate is now turning its attention toward a rate cut, which should occur in the first half of 2024,” concluded Long.

For more up-to-date economic updates from NAFCU's award-winning research team, view NAFCU’s Macro Data Flash reports.