Thursday, February 12, 2009
Retail sales in the U.S. rose for the first time in seven months, up 1.0 percent in January after declines of 3.4 percent, 2.4 percent, and 3.0 percent over the last three months.
Excluding automobiles, sales rose 0.9 percent, as overall gains were driven by increased spending on gasoline, electronics, and food, which were all up more than two percent.
Sectors influenced by the housing boom in recent years showed no improvement in January as sales at building material and furniture stores posted declines of 3.2 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
On a year-over-year basis, overall retail sales were down 9.7 percent with huge declines in gasoline purchases, largely due to plunging energy prices, as well as much lower automobiles sales due to the contraction in spending on big-ticket items as the recession worsened.
Note that these figures are not adjusted for inflation. If they were, gasoline station sales would rise considerably in the chart above since prices at the pump are down almost 50 percent from year-ago levels.
As is the case in the Labor Department's inflation statistics, there are still relatively large increases for health care and food, up 3.8 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, over the last year.