Consumer Spending Drives Jan. Retail Sales Boost


With data indicating that consumer spending is still strong, retail sales – which are an indication of purchases at restaurants, stores and online – rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent last month from December, per the Commerce Department. The results meet the forecasts of economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Sales at general merchandise, building-material and furniture stores all increased formidably, which could be a result of mild winter weather in much of the country. Auto sales rose 0.2 percent from December, but gasoline sales fell by 0.5 percent in January. Sales at apparel stores fell 3.1 percent from December, and sales at electronics and healthcare stores registered steep drops.

Consumer spending is said to be the primary driver of the U.S. economy, which comprises over two-thirds of economic output. And the factors driving consumer spending in the country are still formidable. Average hourly earnings registered a 3.1 percent year-over-year gain, while unemployment sat at a low 3.6 percent last month.

Automatic Data Processing Inc. Chief Executive Carlos Rodriguez said during an earnings call on Jan. 29 that “the economy is on stable ground.” Per the report, he also noted that wage growth is “still at robust levels and should drive continued consumer spending and continued consumer confidence.”

The news comes as retail sales in the United States strengthened in December. Commerce Department data indicated that the value of receipts at merchants rose 0.3 percent that month, and rose 5.8 percent from December 2018. Building material outlet sales notched their biggest advance as of August, and purchases at clothing retailers rose the most as of March. Filling station receipts climbed up by 2.8 percent, registering their largest gain as of March. Retail sales rose 0.5 percent, with the exclusion of automobiles and gasoline, following a 0.2 percent decline the month before. Retail sales rose 3.6 percent for all of last year, which marked a decrease from an almost 5 percent rise in 2018.