Retail Sales Stage a Comeback in May

Economists and reporting agencies say that May retail sales rebounded after a lackluster performance in April.

May retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.4 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and a solid 5.4  percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“The good news from today’s report is that consumer spending continues to be solid in spite of higher gasoline prices and mixed readings on consumer sentiment,” said Brian Bethune, U.S. economist with Global Insight, a Lexington, Mass.-based financial, economic, and political forecasting and consulting firm. “The relatively strong job market has kept spending energized and will contribute to a solid bounce back in overall economic growth in the second quarter.”

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for May (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 4.7 percent unadjusted over last year and 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from April.
 
“After a lackluster April, consumer spending rebounded nicely in May,” said NRF chief economist Roz Wells. “With retail sales increasing, the economy is getting a much-needed boost.”

Industry sales in most sectors saw strong gains. Clothing and clothing accessories stores sales surged 2.7 percent increase seasonally adjusted over last month, and a strong 9.1 percent increase unadjusted year-over-year. Health and personal care stores sales rose 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 6.5 percent unadjusted over last year.

Showing the effect of the weak housing market, building material stores sales rose 2.1 percent seasonally adjusted from last month, but decreased 0.7 percent unadjusted over last year. Furniture and home furnishing stores sales rose a subdued 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted and 2.9 percent unadjusted over last year.