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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Hold Steady in September; August Sales Firm
by Tom Moeller  October 14, 2022

• Auto & gasoline sales weaken.

• Sales are mixed amongst most other categories.

Total retail sales were unchanged (+8.2% y/y) during September after rising 0.4% in August, revised from 0.3%. A 0.2% increase was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles & parts, retail sales edged 0.1% higher (8.9% y/y) following a 0.1% August easing, revised from -0.3%. No change had been expected in September. Retail sales excluding restaurants eased 0.1% (7.8% y/y) after rising 0.2% in August.

Sales of motor vehicles & parts fell 0.4% in September (+5.6% y/y) after rising 2.8% in August. This compares to a 2.2% gain (10.8% y/y) in unit sales of motor vehicles. Gasoline service station sales declined 1.4% (+20.6% y/y) as prices fell. That followed a 5.2% August decline. Sales at building materials & garden equipment stores fell 0.4% (9.7% y/y) after two months of strong increase.

In the retail control group, which excludes autos, gas stations, building materials & food services, sales improved 0.4% last month (6.6% y/y) after rising 0.2%, revised from unchanged. These sales are used in the construction of personal consumption expenditures in NIPA accounts.

Sales gains were mixed amongst other categories of retail sales. General merchandise store sales gained 0.7% last month (3.7% y/y) following a 0.4% August rise. Nonstore retail sales increased 0.5% (11.6% y/y) after falling 0.3% in August. Apparel & accessory store sales also increased 0.5% (121.0% y/y) after rising 0.9%. General merchandise store sales improved 0.7% (3.7% y/y) after a 0.4% August gain. Within that category, department store sales rose 1.3% during September (1.8% y/y) after rising 1.0% in the prior month.

Offsetting these increases, electronics & appliance store sales weakened 0.8% in September (-8.6% y/y), the fifth consecutive monthly decline. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales fell 0.7% (3.7% y/y) after rising 0.6% in August. Furniture & home furnishing store sales declined 0.7% last month (+0.9% y/y) after rising 0.9% in August.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & beverage store sales rose 0.4% (6.4% y/y) in September after a 0.3% August gain. Health & personal care store sales increased 0.5% (4.3% y/y) following a 0.4% rise during August.

Dining out has been one of the strongest retail activities this year. Restaurant & drinking place sales rose 0.5% (11.4% y/y) in September, following a 1.8% August increase.

The retail sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics forecast is in the AS1REPNA database.

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