The National Retail Federation reported August retail sales, (excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 2.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
When combined with revisions to July, NRF said that August sales indicate a consistent improvement in consumer confidence and spending but run contrary to August’s lackluster jobs report.
NRF calculated that retail industry employment (excluding autos and gasoline) declined by 17,700 jobs in August, with significant downward revisions for July and June as well.
Among those suffering the worst losses were food and beverage stores, which experienced 17,000 jobs lost, possibly suggesting a seasonal- or category-specific anomaly, NRF explained. However, the federation anticipates upward revisions in employment and payroll numbers for September.
“The rise in consumer confidence, labor markets and retail sales is encouraging,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
“August sales figures signal that consumers are willing and ready to spend as the economy improves,” he added. “However, until the pace of income picks up, we should not expect a sustained surge in spending.”
All retail categories improved over the previous month with the exception of general merchandise stores, NRF reported.
Even though year-over-year sales slowed from 4.2 to 2.6%, “by and large merchants had a strong finish to the back-to-school season, especially those selling clothing and electronics,” Kleinhenz said.
“My overall impression is that the economy is moving in the right direction but that other factors, including rising concerns over the uncertainty in the Middle East, may produce some drag,” he admitted. “We remain hopeful but cautious.”