Retail Spending Growth Slowed in August

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 6.6% year over year to $509 billion in August and up by 0.1% month over month from an upwardly revised July total of $508.6 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau released its estimated retail sales data for August Friday morning. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would rise 0.4% compared with sales in July.

For the year to date, total retail sales are up 5.7% compared with the year-ago total. The smaller-than-expected month-over-month rise could be the first indication that U.S. consumers are pulling in a bit on spending. Or maybe they’re just catching their breath as the holiday shopping season approaches. Plentiful jobs and rising wages have been boosting consumer spending and most comments are likely to attribute the August decline to a blip on the national retail spending radar screen.

August sales were lower month over month in four business categories: motor vehicle sales, furniture and home furnishings. clothing and accessories, and department stores. Total sales, excluding gas stations, were also lower than in July.

Sales of motor vehicles fell 0.8% month over month and rose 4.2% compared with July 2017. Car sales totaled $94.21 billion last month on an adjusted basis, lower than the downwardly adjusted July total of $95 billion. August 2018 were up nearly $4 billion over August 2017 sales.

Retail trade sales rose 0.1% month over month and jumped 6.2% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 10.4% year over year. Month over month, nonstore retail sales rose 0.7%.

Gasoline station sales rose 1.7% month over month and are up 20.32% year over year. The increase is due largely to higher pump prices. Unadjusted gas sales totaled were nearly $8 billion higher in August than in the same month last year.

Electronics stores posted a sales increase of 0.4% month over month and a year-over-year increase of 3.9% in sales. Both were lower than July totals.

Department stores posted a month-over-month sales decrease of 1.0% and were down 0.7% year over year.

Sales of building materials and garden supplies were flat month over month and up 3.3% higher year over year.

Food services and bar sales increased by 0.2% month over month and are up 10.1% year over year.

Clothing stores posted a month-over-month decline of 1.7%, and have added 6.3% year to date compared to August 2017.