Census Retail Sales Data Shows Consumers ‘Still Engaged’

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Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week revealed that even though retail sales slowed in January, households continued to spend.

“Retail sales softened in January compared with the holiday season, but consumers were still engaged,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a news release. “Extreme weather likely disrupted product demand and consumption patterns. January prices for goods came down, which affects sales figures even if the same number of items are sold, and increased prices for services pulled dollars away from retail purchases. Nonetheless, January’s numbers point to the U.S. economy and labor market continuing to chug along.”

January Sales Down From December

The Census Bureau said overall retail sales in January were down 0.8% from December but up 0.6% year over year (YOY). That compared with increases of 0.4% month over month (MOM) and 5.3% YOY in December.

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These numbers are in line with the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, which reported last week that January sales nearly matched December’s levels, the NRF stated. The Retail Monitor found core January retail sales were down just 0.04% seasonally adjusted from October and up 3.24% unadjusted YOY. That compared with increases of 0.19% MOM and 2.4% YOY in December.