Holiday Gift for Retailers; Sales Up a Solid 0.4 Percent

Shoppers wrap around the building as JC Penney and Sephora at Broadway Square Mall in Tyler, Texas open their doors on Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Photo: Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP
Shoppers wrap around the building as JC Penney and Sephora at Broadway Square Mall in Tyler, Texas open their doors on Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017.

January 12, 2018 08:03 AM

U.S. consumers shopped at stores and online outlets at a solid pace in December, closing out a healthy holiday season for retailers.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, after a 0.9 percent surge in November. Retail sales rose 4.2 percent in 2017, the most in three years.

Advertisement

Strong holiday shopping should lift economic growth in the final three months of last year. Americans have been more confident about the economy and are more willing to spend. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

Online retailers reported a strong sales gain of 1.2 percent. Department and general merchandise stores, which include Macy's as well as Target and warehouse clubs, saw sales rise by just 0.1 percent.

RELATED: Stores Hoping People Keep Shopping, Offer Cyber Monday Deals

Sales at home and garden stores jumped 1.2 percent and increased 0.7 percent at restaurants and bars. A few sectors didn't fare as well: Sales fell 1.6 percent at sporting goods stores and 0.3 percent at clothing stores.

Consumer confidence reached a 17-year high in November, though it slid in December. Spending hasn't risen as much as the increase in confidence would suggest.

Overall consumer spending, which includes spending on services as well as at retailers, increased 2.2 percent in the July-September quarter, after rising 3.3 percent in the April-June quarter. Those are solid figures but not much different from previous years. Overall consumer spending data for the fourth quarter hasn't been released yet.

Still, Americans are lifting their spending faster than incomes are growing. That has lowered savings and lifted credit card debt. Figures from the Federal Reserve show that credit card debt reached a record high in December of $1.02 trillion, though that number isn't adjusted for inflation.

The economy expanded at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the spring and summer, the first time growth topped 3 percent for two quarters since 2014. Economists forecast the economy expanded at a roughly 2.5 percent to 3 percent in the October-December quarter.

Credits

The Associated Press

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Advertisement

Missing Boy in Dodge County Found Dead

Pleasant Weather Continues Wednesday

St. Paul Constructing New $10M Recreation Center in Frogtown

From Jail, St. Paul City Council Candidate says ‘He’s Staying in Race’

Hundreds of Openings at MSP International Airport Job Fair

Family of St. Cloud Cyclist Killed During Race Asks Drivers to Pay Attention to Road

Advertisement