The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 0.4 percent in October, rebounding from being flat in September. Retail spending has decelerated over the past few months, down from a year-over-year pace of 6.0 percent in June to 3.4 percent in September. The annual pace eased a bit higher in October to 3.9 percent, up modestly overall.
Excluding auto sales, the year-over-year pace in October would have been 2.4 percent, or up 0.2 percent for the month. This speaks to the strength in the motor vehicle segment of consumer spending, which increased 1.3 percent in October and 10.6 percent over the past 12 months. The auto higher figure in October mostly offset the 1.2 percent decline observed in September. That decrease skewed total retail spending lower in September, but helped to boost them in October.
Other segments with higher retail spending in October included sporting goods and hobbies (up 1.6 percent), clothing and accessories (up 1.4 percent), electronics and appliances (up 1.4 percent), food service and drinking places (up 1.0 percent), health and personal care stores (up 0.5 percent), and nonstore retailers (up 0.4 percent). These were somewhat offset by declining sales for the month in the following categories: building materials (down 1.9 percent), gasoline stations (down 0.6 percent), and miscellaneous store retailers (down 0.1 percent).
Looking at longer-term trends, businesses with the greatest year-over-year growth in retail spending were: motor vehicle and parts (up 10.6 percent), nonstore retailers (up 8.2 percent), furniture and home furnishings (up 7.7 percent), health and personal care stores (up 6.1 percent), sporting goods and hobbies (up 5.3 percent), and electronics and appliances (up 4.8 percent).
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.