Monday, November 16, 2009
The Census Bureau reported a big increase in retail sales during the month of October paced by a 7.4 percent gain in automobile sales, a bounce-back from the September plunge in car sales after the Cash for Clunkers program ended.
Overall retail sales rose 1.4 percent last month, following a plunge of 2.3 percent the month before, the September data being revised downward sharply as it was previously reported as a decline of just 1.5 percent.
Excluding autos, retail sales improved just 0.2 percent in October after a gain of 0.4 percent the month prior and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales rose 0.3 percent last month, the same as in September.
On a year-over-year basis, overall retail sales are now down 1.7 percent, a big improvement from earlier in the year after consumer spending quite literally "fell off a cliff".
Excluding autos, the year-over-year change is now -2.6 percent which, again, is better than before but not very good for a nation in which, for better or worse, consumer spending plays such an important role in economic growth.
Aside from automobiles and gasoline, sales were mixed, food services and drinking places posting the biggest monthly increase at +1.2 percent while the beleaguered building materials and garden equipment stores saw a decline of 2.4 percent.
The rise and fall of spending at home improvement stores is astonishing to look at, now a few years clear of the bursting of the housing bubble.
The decline continues unabated and helps to explain why it's so easy to find a parking spot so close to the entrance of Home Depots and Lowes these days.