Friday, December 12, 2008
The Commerce Department reported U.S. retail sales fell for the fifth month in a row during November, down 1.8 percent from October and a full 7.4 percent below year-ago levels.Data for both September and October were revised downward slightly making for consecutive monthly declines of 1.6 percent, 2.9 percent, and 1.8 percent over the last three months.
Since these figures are not adjusted for inflation, this represents a major contraction in spending in real terms as year-over-year inflation was last reported at 3.7 percent.
As has been the case in recent months, the downturn was led by a 2.8 percent decline in auto sales, following drops of 5.8 percent and 5.5 percent in the previous two months, the annual decline in sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers now at a whopping 25.2 percent.
Excluding autos, sales fell 1.6 percent in November following a downwardly revised decline of 2.4 percent in October.
Part of the reason that the headline numbers have been as bad as they have been in recent months is the precipitous decline in gasoline prices. After declining 13 percent in October, gasoline station sales fell 15 percent in November.
Earlier in the year, when the price at the pump was rising toward $4 a gallon and beyond, gasoline station sales contributed positively to overall retail sales, now the contribution is negative.
Elsewhere, things weren't nearly as bad with home improvement store sales being one of only three other categories to post a decline (-1.3 percent). Sales were up at electronics and appliance stores (+2.8 percent), sporting goods stores (+2.8 percent), and general merchandise stores (+1.2 percent).
Excluding autos, gasoline, and building materials, sales posted their biggest gain in six months, rising 0.5 percent in November after falling 0.7 percent the month before.