Retail Sales UP in June for Fourth Straight Month

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • March retail sales ROSE 0.4 percent or $2.2 billion in June matching May’s upwardly revised 4.0 percent (from 3.0 percent) gain;
  • Sales at gasoline station FELL 2.8 percent — $1.2 billion — as the price of a gallon of gasoline dropped 5.0 percent in June;
  • Other than gasoline stations, the only store categories to show a decline in sales was electronics/appliance stores where sales FELL 0.3 percent ($24 million) from May;
  • Online sales (sales at non-store retailers) jumped 1.7 percent and ROSE to 12.4 percent of all retail sales;
  • All retail activity was up 3.4 percent year-year in June – matching May — while the Consumer Price Index rose 1.6 percent from June 2018 to June 2019.

Trends:

  • Total retail sales have increased for four straight months, the longest stretch since 2017 when sales were up for seven straight months from June through December;
  • BLS reported the number of retail jobs FELL in June and have fallen for five straight months; The number of retail jobs fell in June to the lowest level since December 2015;

Data source: Census Bureau

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Falling gasoline prices gave consumers some extra spending cash in June and they used it to send retail sales up for the fourth straight month, according to the Census Bureau. Indeed, sales at virtually every retail category improved in June, the same month in which the Consumer Price Index showed a 1.6 percent year-year increase. The Census Bureau report is not adjusted for price changes which means an increase in prices will translate into an increase in retail activity, all else being equal.

Sales at furniture and appliance stores have been struggling of late reflecting a slowdown in home sales, both new and existing, and sales at electronics and appliance stores slipped in June, the only other category of stores to show a decline in sales in June. Appliance sales have been down year-year for six straight months.

 Although the sales data are not adjusted for price changes, the higher prices on appliances resulting from increased tariffs on aluminum and steel appear to be driving up prices, discouraging consumers. The higher prices brought on by the tariff increases affect parts as well as new machines and have hit the stock prices of major appliance manufacturers.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.  

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