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16 September 2017, 01:13 | Austin Hogan
US Retail Sales Dip Unexpectedly Amid Steep Drop In Auto Sales
The unexpected decrease in retail sales largely reflected the sharp drop in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which plunged by 1.6% in August after coming in unchanged in July.
There were $474.8 billion in retail and food service sales in August, down 0.2% from the previous month but up 3.2% from August 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the biggest one-month decline since a 0.2 percent decline in February. Auto sales sank 1.6 per cent, the most in seven months.
Excluding autos, an often volatile category, ? sales were up 0.2% last month; economists had expected a 0.5% gain.
Analysts said the retail sales report showed some of the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in the last week of August.
State jobless rate rose to 5.1 percent in August
The 3 percent unemployment rate for August compares with a rate of 3.1 percent in July and 3.2 percent in August 2016. Gains was also reported in other services (+1,800), trade-transportationutilities (+1,700), and construction (+1,600).
Survey evidence suggests solid confidence among consumers which should underpin spending over the next few months. Meanwhile, sporting goods store sales rose 0.1% from July and fell 1.4% from last year, and furniture store sales rose 0.4% from July and 5.4% year over year. Analysts are predicting a future boost in auto sales from buyers whose cars were flooded. "The bottom line is that consumer spending is uneven but remains resilient and the key contributor to US economic growth".
The consumer sector, which contributes to 70 percent of economic activity, is benefiting from the lowest unemployment rates in 16 years and continued strong job gains. That reflects higher prices at the pump.
Sales at general merchandise stores, which includes big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target, were up 0.2 per cent although sales at department stores including Macy's, edged down 0.1 per cent. Sales at non-store retailers, a category that covers booming online sales, dropped 1.1 per cent in August after a 1.8 per cent gain in July.
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