Census Data Shows Retail Sales Moderated in April

Data released by the US Census Bureau shows retail sales moderated in April, National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“Even though household income and job growth are compressing, the consumer spending picture remains positive,” Kleinhenz said. “The softer pace of spending is due in part to consumers being selective and prioritizing retail purchases. Yet, consumers remain willing to spend, keeping the economy afloat despite fatigue from stubbornly high inflation for services and higher interest rates.”

The Census Bureau said overall retail sales in April were unchanged seasonally adjusted from March and up 3% unadjusted year over year. That compared with increases of 0.6% month over month and 3.8% year over year in March. The year-over-year increase was due, in part, to recent downward revisions to data from last year.

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April’s core retail sales as defined by NRF—based on the Census data but excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants—were down 0.2% seasonally adjusted from March but up 3.9% unadjusted year over year. Core retail sales were up 3.8% year-over-year for the first four months of the year, in line with NRF’s forecast for 2024 retail sales to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% over 2023.

Last week, the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, powered by Affinity Solutions, reported that core April retail sales were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from March and almost unchanged—down just 0.05%—year over year. That compared with increases of 0.23% month over month and 2.92% year over year in March. Unlike survey-based numbers collected by the Census Bureau, the Retail Monitor uses actual, anonymized credit and debit card purchase data compiled by Affinity Solutions and does not need to be revised monthly or annually.

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