Economy Watch: Retail Sales Rise 0.3% in April

Sales were also up 4.7 percent from the same month a year ago, according to the latest Census Bureau report.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, April 2018

U.S. retail and food service sales in April edged up 0.3 percent compared with March, according to the Census Bureau on Tuesday. Compared with the same month a year ago, sales were up 4.7 percent. The overall increase in retail sales between February to March was revised upward from 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent.

This time around, car sales didn’t make any difference to total overall sales. Factoring out car and car part sales, retail sales were up the same for the month in April, and slightly more for the year, 4.8 percent. For the month, car sales barely moved, increasing by 0.1 percent. Year-over-year, car sales were up 4.3 percent.

Some retail categories dropped for the month. In particular, health and personal care stores suffered a drop of 0.4 percent in sales compared with March, and food service and drinking places took a loss of 0.3 percent in sales. Electronics store and sporting goods store sales both edged down 0.1 percent, while all other categories were up for the month. Miscellaneous store retailers, which includes the likes of dollar stores, enjoyed a 0.9 percent gain in sales for the month in April.

Compared with a year ago, most retail categories experienced sales growth, the Census Bureau reported. Gas station sales were up 11.7 percent, mainly because the price of gas is up. Furniture stores enjoyed a gain of 6.1 percent year-over-increase. A few categories saw losses, such as sporting goods stores, down 0.1 percent—perhaps because of the cold spring in much of the country—and department stores, down 1.6 percent.

Internet sales, which the bureau refers to as non-store sales, continued on their upward trajectory. For the month in April, Internet sales were up 0.6 percent. Compared with last year, they were up 9.6 percent.