Retail Sales Start the Year Strong After A Rough Holiday Season

According to the United States Commerce Department, retail sales surged through March; and it did so at the fastest pace since the end of 2017.  Apparently, numbers for automobiles, fuel, and clothing all shot upward.  Overall, sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent over February. 

These gains indicate a healthy rebound from a somewhat dismal sales period, starting in the 2018 holiday season. Indeed, the much needed jump, this quarter, is a sure sign that job market is strong, which also implies that consumers are more eager to spend their money in several sectors that contribute to better economic growth overall.

More specifically, sales at gas stations jumped 3.5 percent.  That makes sense, though, as spending at car dealerships also climbed 3.1 percent, which is also its highest rating in a year and a half.  Clothing retailers concurrently reported a slight 2 percent bump with furniture stores also seeing gains around 1.7 percent. 

As a matter of fact, out the 13 retail categories, only one reported a decline in sales:  hobby, sporting goods, book stores, and musical instruments.

With all that, though, spending at department stores remained steady in March, showing no change from the previous month.  This could suggest that while consumers are willing to spend more money but might be more apt to shop online.  And the numbers support this:  online businesses saw a 1.2 percent boost.  In addition, restaurants also saw a bump just shy of 1 percent. 

When you exclude gas and automobile sales, the retail market still saw a jump of about 0.9 percent. 

All in all, then, the Federal Reserve described, on Wednesday, that economic activity is expanding, and at a fairly decent rate. This is an excellent place to be, then, approaching the reporting of gross domestic product figures for the first quarter of year. These figures are due on April 26. Some analysts estimate that first quarter gross domestic product, this year, could be a revised 2.8 percent. 

It should also be noted that the health of this labor market can be seen in a massive drop in first-time filings for unemployment benefits. As a matter of fact, this metric is down to a 49-year low.