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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Firm in October; Nonauto Sales Strengthen
by Tom Moeller   November 16, 2022

• Autos & gasoline, with higher prices, lead upturn.

• Nonstore & furniture purchases are strong.

• Electronics & general merchandise store sales lag.

The consumer appears to be getting a jump on the holidays as the job market remains firm. Total retail sales increased 1.3% (8.3% y/y) during October after holding steady in September, which was unrevised. A 1.0% increase was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles & parts, retail sales rose 1.3% (9.0% y/y) following an unrevised 0.1% September uptick. A 0.4% rise had been expected.

Sales in the retail control group, which excludes autos, gas stations, building materials & food services, rose 0.7% last month (6.5% y/y) after a 0.6% gain in September, revised from 0.4%. The latest increase was the strongest since June. These sales are used in the construction of personal consumption expenditures in NIPA accounts.

Sales of motor vehicles & parts rose 1.3% in October (5.2% y/y) after easing 0.3% in the prior month. This gain compares to an 11.7% rise (14.4% y/y) in unit sales of motor vehicles. Gasoline service station sales rose 4.1% (17.8% y/y) as the average price of gasoline increased a seasonally adjusted 1.3%. The latest gasoline sales gain followed a 3.7% September decline as prices weakened. Sales at building materials & garden equipment stores rose 1.1% last month (9.2% y/y) after declining 0.2% in September.

Sales performance was mixed amongst other categories of retail sales. Nonstore retail sales strengthened 1.2% (11.5% y/y) following two months of 0.6% increase. Furniture & home furnishing store sales increased 1.1% (0.4% y/y) after falling 0.9% in September. Holding fairly steady were clothing store sales (3.1% y/y) after having risen 1.0% in both September & August. Working 0.3% lower (-12.1% y/y) were sales of electronics & appliance stores, down for the fifth month in the last six. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales fell 0.3% (+2.5% y/y) after declining 0.8% in September. General merchandise store sales eased 0.2% (+2.3% y/y) after rising 0.8% in September. Department store sales declined 2.1% last month (-1.6% y/y) following a 1.3% September increase.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & beverage store sales rose 1.4% (7.6% y/y) in October after a 0.7% September gain. Health & personal care store sales increased 0.5% (5.4% y/y) following a 0.8% rise during September.

Dining out remained one of the strongest retail activities this year. Restaurant & drinking place sales rose 1.6% (14.1% y/y) in October following a 0.9% September 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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