Retail Sales Rise 0.5% in May, Largest Monthly Increase Since January

The Commerce Dept. announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May, were $340.0 billion, an increase of 0.5% compared to a revised decline of 0.2% in April. It was the largest increase since sales surged by 1.7% in January following six straight declines. But the May increase was driven primarily by higher gas prices that resulted in a 3.6% jump in gasoline station sales. If we strip out both autos and auto parts sales, core retail sales showed a marginal gain of 0.1% last month. Still, the May advance could be another signal that the worst of the longest recession in 60-plus years is over.

From CB: Total sales for the March through May 2009 period were down 9.7 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The March to April 2009 percent change was revised from -0.4 percent (±0.5%)* to -0.2 percent (±0.2%)*.

Retail trade sales were up 0.5 percent (±0.7%)* from April 2009, but 10.8 percent (±0.7%) below last year. Gasoline stations sales were down 33.8 percent (±1.5%) from May 2008 and motor vehicle and parts dealers sales were down 19.6 percent (±2.3%) from last year.

Consumer spending accounts for more than 70% of all economic activity.

Separately, the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits slid 24,000 to 601,000 in the week ended June 6, the Labor Department said in its weekly report Thursday. The 4-week moving average was 621,750, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 632,250.

Graph: Census Bureau

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