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

Retail Sales Growing. Seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales grew 2.1 percent from June to September. Cumulative twelve-month growth in sales from September 2022 to September 2023 was 3.8 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 Flat Over Last 12 Months. Across all goods and services purchased by consumers, U.S. prices increased by 1.2 percent from June to September—less than the 2.1 percent growth in sales. From September 2022 to September 2023, prices grew 3.7 percent, roughly offsetting the 3.8 percent growth in sales over that twelve-month period.


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