Charts of the Week

U.S. Retail Sales

Chart of the Week for March 15, 2019 - March 21, 2019

U.S. Retail Sales have been trending lower recently.

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes a monthly survey of merchandise sold by establishments primarily engaged in retail trade. Economists consider it an important measure of consumer spending activity and a leading contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The chart above shows the monthly percentage change in U.S. Retail Sales from January 2018 through January 2019.

Retail sales had mixed results over the past year ranging from a high of 1.2% growth in May 2018 to a decline of -1.6% in December 2018. Economists were surprised by the large decrease in December 2018, and despite the January 2019 increase of 0.2% the trend over the last months of 2018 into January 2019 was weaker. Economists noted that the continued strong labor market, wage growth and the back pay received by federal workers following the government shutdown should help retail sales rebound modestly.

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