April Retail Sales Report: No Growth

By at 15 May, 2024, 6:02 pm

Consumers slam on the brakes

by Raymond J. Keating –

The latest retail and food services sales report from the U.S. Census Bureau pointed to consumers slamming on the brakes on spending in April.

Specifically, growth in retail and food services sales (seasonally adjusted) experienced no growth in April. Even worse, that means when factoring inflation in (retail sales data is in nominal dollars), real sales actually declined.

This followed on nominal gains of 0.6 percent in March, and 0.7 percent in February. Those gains came after a dive of 1.1 percent in January.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

That’s quite volatile for the first four months of this year.

Trying to iron out month-to-month volatility, April 2024 sales were up by 3.0 percent  compared to April 2023, and the most recent three months of sales also were up by 3 percent compared to that same months last year. At the same time, however, inflation was up by 3.4 percent, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report, which means that real sales were down compared to last year.

Finally, the real decline in April is an initial negative for economic growth in the second quarter.

No, there’s not much to latch onto in this latest retail and food services sales report that’s an economic positive.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His latest books on the economy are The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist, The Weekly Economist II: 52 More Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist and The Weekly Economist III: Another 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist.

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