Like the latest jobless claims numbers, the data on August retail sales weren't what most economists expected. The forecasters were looking for a small decline last month. The data show a small increase.
Retail sales were a seasonally adjusted $368.2 billion in August, a two-tenths percent increase from July, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on September 14. Sales excluding autos also rose two-tenths of a percentage point. August's gains, however, were much smaller than July's. Overall retail sales posted a 1.4% gain in July, and sales except autos posted a 0.6% increase.
August's increases were fairly broad based, though furniture and clothing stores and gasoline stations did report declines.
Retail sales are a closely watched economic indicator since consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.