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

Retail Sales Growing. Seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales grew 1.2 percent from May to August. Cumulative twelve-month growth in sales from August 2022 to August 2023 was 2.5 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 Months. Across all goods and services purchased by consumers, U.S. prices increased by 0.6 percent from March to June---less than the 1.2 percent growth in sales. From August 2022 to August 2023, prices grew 3.7 percent, more than offsetting the 2.5 percent growth in sales over that twelve-month period.


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