A fourth-consecutive monthly gain despite higher prices
WASHINGTON – April retail sales rose 0.9% from the previous month to $677.7 billion, the Commerce Department reported today. It was the fourth consecutive monthly increase in the face of rising consumer prices.
April’s increase followed the 0.5% gain in March sales, when Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine caused gasoline prices to surge. Pump prices came down a bit in April but remained elevated.
The April sales data are not adjusted for inflation. The government separately reported that consumer prices increased 8.3% in April from the previous year.
Consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The Commerce Department’s retail sales data for April show that consumers spent less at grocery stores and on building materials but increased their outlays at department stores, restaurants and bars. Motorists in April spent less at the pump, where sales declined 2.7% from a month earlier.
Stripping out the auto sector, March retail sales were up 0.6%, the Commerce Department reported. Spending at car dealers increased 2.2% in April, following months in which sales were suppressed by supply-chain delays and computer-chip shortages.
The Commerce Department report was released on the same day Walmart said that significantly higher costs for fuel and labor had squeezed its profits in the 12 weeks through January.
The nation’s largest retailer posted a sales increase for the quarter but cited higher product, supply-chain and employee costs as unexpectedly difficult challenges.
“There were some things that happened during the quarter that were different than we expected,” CEO Doug McMillon said during the retailer’s earnings call. “Our first quarter is a disappointment to us. We are going to put it behind us and have a strong year.”