Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Real Retails Sales per Capita

Following this morning's post on real monthly retail sales, a few readers asked to see the chart adjusted for population growth. I'm glad they did, as the results show why the recovery doesn't feel as strong as headline figures would otherwise indicate. To be more specific, retail sales excluding autos and gas are roughly where they were 12 years ago on a per capita basis.

Source: Census / BLS / BEA


  1. Hi Jake, great figure. It provokes lots of questions. Let me ask one about the gasoline sales.

    I can't help but notice that real per capita gasoline sales have steadily decreased since November 2001 in spite of the fact that crude oil has risen from about $25/barrel to $100/barrel today (nominal dollars). But even once one converts to real dollars, oil still appreciated by about 300% over this period while real per capital gasoline sales have fallen.

    Moreover, during this period, the gasoline sales record shows very few responses to spikes in crude oil -- in 2008 gasoline sales do appear to rise about $30/month which is likely related to crude's run to $147/barrel. But that's about it.

    This makes me wonder about the argument that high oil prices which lead to high gasoline prices tap out consumers. The last spike increased per capital gasoline sales by $30/month -- is this increase of $30/month all that significant?

  2. Kosta- I could have been a bit more clear. I deflated gasoline by the price of gasoline, so this is actual units of gasoline per person.

    Hope that helps.