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Today the U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary estimates of nationwide retail sales in July 2020 and revised estimates for June 2020. (The data include both brick-and-mortar and Internet sales.)

Steady Growth in July. U.S. retail sales grew steadily in July after two months of rapid growth in May and June. Seasonally adjusted sales rose by 1.2 percent in July. As a result, sales in July 2020 were 2.7 percent higher than in July 2019.

Trends by Retailer Type Continue. July 2020 sales by some types of retailers substantially exceeded last year’s sales, while sales by other types of retailers fell far short of last year’s sales. Many of these differences are similar to the ones we noted last month. For example, sales by vehicle dealers were 6 percent higher in July 2020 than in July 2019, while sales by bars and restaurants were 19 percent lower.

Card Data Suggest Stronger Growth in California. In addition to being a general economic indicator, U.S. retail sales can give us a rough sense of the trajectory of sales tax revenues. As noted in a recent post, we also are tracking sales tax performance with spending data from credit and debit cards. The card spending data suggest that July spending growth may have been much stronger in California than in the rest of the U.S.


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