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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Rise in August; Nonauto Sales Ease
by Tom Moeller  September 15, 2022

• Increase recaptures most of July decline.

• Auto sales rise unexpectedly.

• Lower gasoline prices hold back total.

Total retail sales increased 0.3% (9.1% y/y) during August following a 0.4% July decline which was revised from unchanged. June sales were revised to 1.0% from 0.8%. No change in August sales was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles & parts, retail sales declined 0.3% (+9.7% y/y) after holding steady in July, revised from a 0.4% increase reported initially. June sales were revised to up 1.1% from 0.9%. A 0.1% increase had been expected in August.

Sales of motor vehicles & parts increased 2.8% in August (6.7% y/y) after falling 2.0% in July. This compares to a 0.8% decline (+1.5% y/y) in unit sales of motor vehicles. Gasoline service station sales declined 4.2% (+29.3% y/y) as prices fell. That followed a 2.3% July drop. Excluding autos & gasoline, retail & food service sales rose 0.3% (7.6% y/y), the same as in July.

In the retail control group, which excludes autos, gas stations, building materials & food services, sales were fairly steady (6.6% y/y) last month after a 0.4% increase, revised from 0.8%, and a 1.1% June gain. These sales are used in the construction of personal consumption expenditures in NIPA accounts.

Sales gains remined mixed last month across product categories. Furniture & home furnishings store sales declined 1.3% (-1.6% y/y), the fourth consecutive monthly decline. Nonstore retail sales fell 0.7% (+11.2% y/y) after four straight months of increase. Electronics & appliance store sales eased 0.1% (-5.7% y/y) after a 0.5% increase. To the upside, building materials store sales improved 1.1% (10.5% y/y) after rising 1.3% in July. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales improved 0.5% (5.5% y/y) after holding steady in July. Clothing & accessory store sales rose 0.4% last month (3.5% y/y) after falling 0.8% in July. General merchandise store sales improved 0.5% in August (3.6% y/y) after falling 0.4% in July. Within that category, department store sales rose 0.9% (0.7% y/y) after 0.4% in July.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & beverage store sales rose 0.5% (7.2% y/y) in August after a 0.1% uptick in July. Health & personal care store sales weakened 0.6% (+1.5% y/y) following a 0.4% rise during July.

Consumers dined out more frequently last month. Restaurant & drinking place sales rose 1.1% (10.9% y/y) in August after a 0.8% July decline.

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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