U.S. retail sales declined in April and May, pulled down by a sharp drop in gas prices. But even after excluding volatile gas sales, consumers barely increased their spending.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales dipped 0.2 percent in May. That followed a revised 0.2 percent decline April. The back-to-back declines were the first in two years.
The weakness reflected a 2.2 percent plunge in gasoline station sales. Still, excluding gas station sales, retail spending rose just 0.1 percent in May. And it dropped 0.1 percent in April. That left retail spending roughly flat outside of gas sales for the two months, a sign that slower job growth and paltry wage increases may be leading consumers to pull back on spending.
The one thing not mentioned above that I find interesting is that furniture and motor vehicles (i.e. large purchase retail items) are #1 and #2 respectively in terms of strength. Perhaps (though not certain) people are just putting other items on hold as they make these purchases.