Census Data Shows U.S. Retail Sales Bounced Back in February 2024

March 15 – NRF – Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today shows retail sales expanded in February 2024 after a strong but flat January, National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“Retail sales rebounded in a solid fashion in February, showing the consumer is still spending and pointing to underlying strength in the economy,” Kleinhenz said. “These results indicate that the economy is continuing to expand in the first quarter despite tight credit conditions and still-elevated inflation. Jobs gains, wage increases, and continued GDP growth are supporting household spending. Spending on services remains elevated while spending on goods has softened, but both sectors are still growing.”

The Census Bureau said overall retail sales in February were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from January and up 1.5% unadjusted year over year. That compared with a 1.1% month-over-month decrease and no year-over-year change in January.

February’s core retail sales as defined by NRF – based on the Census data but excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants – were up 0.2% seasonally adjusted from January and up 5.5% unadjusted year over year. Core retail sales were up 3.5% unadjusted year over year on a three-month moving average as of February.

On Tuesday, the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, powered by Affinity Solutions, reported that February sales showed continued momentum on the part of consumers. The Retail Monitor found core February retail sales were up 0.95% seasonally adjusted from January and up 6.69% unadjusted year over year. Those numbers softened, however, to gains of 0.27% and 2.99% when adjusted for the leap year effect of the extra day in February this year. That compared with a decrease of 0.04% month over month and an increase of 3.24% year over year in January.

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.