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Today the U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary estimates of nationwide retail sales in March 2023 and revised estimates for February 2023. (The data include both brick-and-mortar and Internet sales.)

Retail Sales Growing Rapidly. Seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales increased by 1.9 percent from December to March. Cumulative twelve-month growth in sales from March 2022 to March 2023 was 2.9 percent.

Recent One-Month Changes Too Volatile to Be Informative. As noted previously, recent patterns suggest that the Census Bureau’s seasonal adjustment for retail sales might not be working as intended. Until these concerns are addressed, numbers that are less sensitive to seasonal patterns—such as the three-month and twelve-month growth rates noted above—likely provide more useful information than monthly numbers.

Inflation-Adjusted Sales Grew Over Last 3 Months But Declined Over Last 12. Across all goods and services purchased by consumers, U.S. prices increased by 0.9 percent from December to March. From March 2022 to March 2023, prices grew 5 percent, more than offsetting the 2.9 percent growth in sales over that twelve-month period.


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