Retail Sales Soft in November

By at 14 December, 2019, 3:33 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

The retails sales numbers for November reported by the U.S. Census Bureau came in softer than expected.

Overall retail and food service sales grew by 0.2% in November over October. However, after excluding autos and gas, sales were flat.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

In fact, there were a fair number of negatives on the list of retail sectors, such as food services and drinking places (-0.3%), department stores (-0.6%), sporting goods, hobbies, musical instruments and book stores (-0.5%), clothing stores (-0.6%), and health and personal care stores (-1.1%).

Among the positives were nonstore retailers (+0.8%), gas stations (+0.7%), food and beverage stores (+0.3%), and electronics and appliance stores (+0.7%).

Of course, Christmas holiday sales in November and December matter a great deal to the annual performance of retail businesses. In addition, while real GDP has slowed in the last two quarters – i.e., 2.0% in the second quarter 2019 and 2.1% in the third quarter – it was the consumer (i.e., personal consumption expenditures) that accounted for most of this growth, given that private investment and trade faltered.

So, December sales will be watched closely. But more importantly, the policy agenda needs to get refocused in a pro-growth direction if we’re serious about moving real GDP growth at least back to its long-run average rate in excess of 3%.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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