US retail sales tick up 0.2 percent in June

 
 
In this photo taken May 14, 2014, Jody Dickman, of Pittsburgh, shops at a Gap store in Pittsburgh. The Commerce Department releases retail sales data for June on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
In this photo taken May 14, 2014, Jody Dickman, of Pittsburgh, shops at a Gap store in Pittsburgh. The Commerce Department releases retail sales data for June on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

AP Economics Writer

U.S. retail sales increased slightly in June, evidence that consumers remain cautious despite steady job gains this year.

Retail sales rose just 0.2 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, held back by a sharp drop at building and garden supply stores. Sales also fell at restaurants and at auto dealers.

The figures suggest that Americans are still reluctant to spend freely, limiting growth in the April-June quarter. While employers have stepped up hiring since January, wage growth remains weak and is barely keeping up with inflation. Retail sales are closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

Still, economists were encouraged by some of the details in the report. A measure of retail sales that excludes volatile categories such as gasoline and autos rose at a solid 0.6 percent clip. Clothing stores, sporting goods stores and department stores all recorded decent sales gains. And a category that includes online and catalog retailers jumped 0.9 percent in June and has increased 8.1 percent in the past 12 months. That's nearly double the 4.3 percent growth in overall retail sales in the past year.

"While the headline number for June was disappointing, there were some underlying pockets of strength," Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, said. "The solid advance ... across numerous retail sectors suggests that consumers are spending, but doing so selectively."

Sales at auto and auto parts dealers fell 0.3 percent, which contradicts strong data released by the automakers themselves earlier this month. The automakers had said sales reached an eight-year high in June. The two sets of data can sometimes conflict on a month-to-month basis.

Retail sales were revised higher in May to 0.5 percent from 0.3 percent, and in April to 0.6 percent from 0.5 percent.

Most analysts now expect the economy will expand at about a 3 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter, a forecast that was little changed by the retail sales report. That's not as strong a rebound as many economists had hoped from a weak first quarter, when the economy shrank 2.9 percent, largely because of cold weather.

Economists had expected second-quarter growth of 3.5 percent rate a month ago, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

Several retailers have reported disappointing sales in the past month. Family Dollar, the Container Store and the Gap have all blamed falling sales on consumer caution. The CEO of the Container Store said the chain has been hurt by a "retail funk."

Yet some other stores reported healthy sales gains, including the discount club chain Costco and grocery chain Kroger's.

Purchases of large items like autos may be leaving many Americans with less money to spend on discretionary items like clothes and electronics. Rising grocery prices have likely also squeezed household budgets.

Still, employers are hiring at a healthy pace, which may give Americans more confidence to spend. Employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs a month in the first half of this year, up from 194,000 a month in 2013. That's knocked the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent, the lowest in nearly six years.

Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber/

Read more Breaking News - Business stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category