Retail Sales: 2023 Opens with a Gain

By at 15 February, 2023, 4:58 pm

by Raymond J. Keating –

After a dismal close to 2022, retail and food services sales got off to a solid start in 2023, growing by 3.0 percent (on a seasonally adjusted basis) in January versus December, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report.

Compared to a year earlier, sales were up by 6.4 percent. But when inflation is factored in, sales for the past year were essentially flat in real terms.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

The January gain was most welcome considering that sales had declined in November and December, and in four of the last six months of 2022 (again, without factoring inflation into the data).

As always, retail sales news is a small business story, with 87 percent of employer firms in retail trade having fewer than 20 employees and 95 percent fewer than 100 workers.

Of course, the hope is that January’s solid gain will continue, but keep in mind that many risks and uncertainties continue to swirl around the economy, including inflation, foreign affairs questions, and Congress and the White House unable to come together to implement a pro-entrepreneur, pro-investment, pro-growth policy agenda.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His latest book is The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist.


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