Retail sales declined 0.2% in May, matching April’s decline. Although retail sales were expected to be weak in May, downward revisions to previous month’s data make the report particularly weak. March’s growth was revised down from 0.7% to 0.4% and April’s growth was revised down from 0.1% to -0.2%. Some of the weakness may be due to falling gasoline prices and seasonal factors however, the report remains worrying.
Falling gasoline prices played a part in May’s drop as retail sales excluding gasoline and autos fell just 0.1%, with gasoline stores representing the largest decline of any component at 2.2%. Building materials stores were also hit particularly hard, with sales falling 1.7% over the month.
There were pockets of strength in May’s disappointing report. Nonstore retailers saw sales grow at 1.3% and clothing retailers saw a 0.9% growth in sales.
Retail sales remain 5.3% above year-ago levels, down from 5.6% just a month ago and 8.0% as recently as October.
Read the Census report.