Census Data Shows Retail Sales Moderated in April

"Even though household income and job growth are compressing, the consumer spending picture remains positive."

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz

WASHINGTON – Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today shows retail sales moderated in April, National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“Even though household income and job growth are compressing, the consumer spending picture remains positive,” Kleinhenz said. “The softer pace of spending is due in part to consumers being selective and prioritizing retail purchases. Yet, consumers remain willing to spend, keeping the economy afloat despite fatigue from stubbornly high inflation for services and higher interest rates.”

Census Bureau said overall retail sales in April were unchanged seasonally adjusted from March and up 3% unadjusted year over year. That compared with increases of 0.6% month over month and 3.8% year over year in March. The year-over-year increase was due, in part, to recent downward revisions to data from last year.

April’s core retail sales as defined by NRF – based on the Census data but excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants – were down 0.2% seasonally adjusted from March but up 3.9% unadjusted year over year. Core retail sales were up 3.8% year-over-year for the first four months of the year, in line with NRF’s forecast for 2024 retail sales to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% over 2023.

Last week, the
CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, powered by Affinity Solutions, reported that core April retail sales were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from March and almost unchanged — down just 0.05% — year over year. That compared with increases of 0.23% month over month and 2.92% year over year in March. Unlike survey-based numbers collected by the Census Bureau, the Retail Monitor uses actual, anonymized credit and debit card purchase data compiled by Affinity Solutions and does not need to be revised monthly or annually.

As the leading authority and voice for the retail industry, NRF provides data on retail sales each month and also forecasts annual retail sales and spending for key periods such as the holiday season each year.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail succeed. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $5.3 trillion to annual GDP and supporting more than one in four U.S. jobs — 55 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.