Retail Spending Soars in May: Census Bureau

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 5.9% year over year to $502 billion in May and up by 0.8% month over month from an upwardly revised April total of $497.9 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau released its estimated retail sales data for May Thursday morning. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would rise 0.4% compared with sales in April.

With a couple of exceptions, month-over-month sales increased in every business category. Combined with this morning’s positive report on new claims for jobless benefits and yesterday’s bullish forecast for the economy from the Federal Reserve Bank, it’s fair to say that the U.S. economy is rocking.

Sales of motor vehicles rose 0.5% month over month from April and increased  4.2% compared with May 2017. Car sales totaled $95.07 billion last month on an adjusted basis, up from $94.6 billion in April and an increase from $91.23 billion in May 2017.

Total retail sales for the five-month period between January and May gained 5.2% compared with year-ago totals.

Retail trade sales climbed 0.8% month over month and jumped 6% year over year. Non-store retail sales soared 9.1% year over year. Month over month, non-store retail sales rose 0.1%.

Gasoline station sales increased 2% month over month and are up 17.7% year over year. The increase is due largely to higher pump prices. Unadjusted gas sales totaled about $7 billion more in May than in the same month last year and accounted for nearly 43% of total year-over-year spending growth.

Electronics stores posted a sales gain of 0.2% month over month and a year-over-year increase of 1.9% in sales.

Department stores reported a month-over-month sales increase of 1.5% and a year-over-year decline of 2.1%. After years of tumbling sales, these may be the most unexpected changes in the May report.

Sales of building materials and garden supplies gained 2.4% month over month and were 1.9% higher year over year.

Food services and bar sales increased by 1.3% month over month and are up 5.1% year over year.

Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores posted a month-over-month sales drop of 1.1% and a year-over-year decline of 0.7%.

Clothing stores reported a month-over-month gain of 1.3%, and have added 5.9% year to date compared with May 2017.