Retail Sales Surge in March, Reaching Fastest Pace Since 2017

April 18, 2019 by Dan McCue

Americans went on a buying binge in March, and their spending on cars, furniture and clothing resulted in the strongest increase in sales since September 2017, the Commerce Department said Thursday morning.

Overall, sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent during the month, and even when excluding the volatile auto and gasoline sectors, sales by retailers still posted a solid 0.9 percent gain.

Economists consider this report suggests that consumers feel confident enough about their finances to maintain their spending, overcoming fears after retail sales in December plunged 1.6 percent.

Sales rebounded somewhat in January, only to decline again in February.

During the past year, retail spending has grown 3.6 percent, the Commerce Department said.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve reported that consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.5 percent. The Fed’s monthly G-19 report said revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 3.25 percent, while non-revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 5 percent.

“March’s numbers are very encouraging and set the stage for improved expectations for the economy in the coming months, especially since the first quarter is typically weak,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

“These numbers boost first-quarter performance and suggest a [confident] consumer,” Kleinhenz continued. “It is clear that underlying consumer fundamentals including job and wage growth and healthy household balance sheets continue to support spending. Consumers were busy in March after weaker-than-expected spending earlier.”

He went on to suggest the numbers could have been better if not for cold weather early in March and changes in the timing of two key religious holidays.

“The change of seasons is always a factor because of the weather, and a later Easter and Passover this year mean holiday-related sales that took place in March last year won’t come until April this year and sizably impact year-over-year comparisons,” Kleinhenz explained.

Bloomberg economists Yelena Shulyatyeva and Carl Riccadonna wrote Thursday that “Stronger-than-expected retail sales in March that spanned multiple discretionary spending categories confirm that the slowdown at the start of the year was temporary.

“As transitory factors abated — including a lengthy government shutdown and a shock to household confidence in response to the fourth-quarter market rout — consumer spending recovered in full force,” they said.

Sales at auto dealers jumped 3.1 percent in March, while gas stations saw their sale climb 3.5  percent.

Spending at clothiers reported a 2 percent gain and furniture stores witnessed a 1.7 percent jump in sales.

Out of 13 retail categories, only one — sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores — reported a sales decline.

Spending at department stores was unchanged in March. Purchases in the sector that includes online businesses enjoyed a 1.2 percent increase. Restaurants saw their sales improve 0.8 percent.

“Retail sales ended 2018 abysmally and began 2019 extraordinarily,” Jefferies LLC economists Ward McCarthy and Thomas Simons wrote in a note. “With a boost from January and March, the consumer sector will be a source of growth again in the first quarter.”

In The News

Health

Voting

Economy

Biden Admin Stepping Up Community Grants from COVID Bill
Economy
Biden Admin Stepping Up Community Grants from COVID Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's administration is beginning to make $3 billion in economic development grants available to communities — a tenfold increase in the program paid for by this year's COVID-19 relief bill. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said her agency on Thursday will begin... Read More

Arizona Outpaces Nation In Post-COVID Private Sector Job Recovery
Economy
Arizona Outpaces Nation In Post-COVID Private Sector Job Recovery
July 21, 2021
by Brock Blasdell

According to a recently released economic report by the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, the state of Arizona has outpaced the nation in private sector economic recovery post-COVID. In June alone, Arizona added 26,000 private sector jobs to its economy -- a rate 17% higher than... Read More

Biden's 3rd Trip to Reddish Ohio Pushes His Economic Agenda
Biden's 3rd Trip to Reddish Ohio Pushes His Economic Agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden just can't quit Ohio — even if it rejected him in last year's election. The Democrat travels to Cincinnati on Wednesday to push his economic policies. It's the third visit of his presidency to Ohio, the only state he lost... Read More

Congress Searches for Way to Make Supply Chains Resilient
Economy
Congress Searches for Way to Make Supply Chains Resilient
July 15, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The Senate continued its search Thursday for ways to prevent the kind of devastation brought to U.S. supply chains by COVID-19. Industry executives told a Senate panel the pandemic exposed U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers to keep the lights on for their businesses. As... Read More

Small Business Advocates Plead for Help Recovering from the Pandemic
Congress
Small Business Advocates Plead for Help Recovering from the Pandemic
July 14, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress threw their support Tuesday behind President Joe Biden’s goal of helping small and rural businesses but with different perspectives on how to achieve it. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, suggested that Congress provide a dedicated source of funding for the Small Business... Read More

Explainer: Where are America’s Workers?
Employment
Explainer: Where are America’s Workers?
July 12, 2021
by Brock Blasdell

As the American economic engines churn back to life, one major hurdle stands in the way of our market renaissance - labor. Businesses, especially low wage, low skill businesses, are having a difficult time finding people to work for them.  The consequences of these shortages are... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top