August 2021 Retail Sales, September UI Claims

Robert A. Dye, Ph.D.

,

Daniel Sanabria

Retail

Nominal retail sales increased in August by 0.7 percent after falling in July by 1.8 percent. Today's retail sales report for August is somewhat quirky...



Quirky Data

• Retail Sales climbed by 0.7 percent in August even as unit auto sales fell.
• Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance climbed by 20,000 for the week ending Sep.11, to hit 332,000.

Nominal retail sales increased in August by 0.7 percent after falling in July by 1.8 percent. Today’s retail sales report for August is somewhat quirky, reflecting the strange mix of forces shaping the U.S. economy. Inflation boosted the nominal sales numbers in August as did the child tax credit payments to qualifying households. The dollar value of auto sales fell by 3.9 percent for the month, as unit auto sales fell to a weak 13.1 million unit annual rate due to lack of inventory. Furniture sales jumped by 3.7 percent because when you can’t buy a car you buy a couch. However, electronic and appliance store sales dropped by 3.1 percent. Building material sales gained 0.9 percent for the month, while food and beverage store sales were up by 1.8 percent. Drugstores, gasoline stations and clothing stores all saw small gains that reflect price inflation. Sporting goods sales dropped by 2.7 percent (more time on the new couch?). Todays’ retail sales data are consistent with our expectations of softer overall consumer spending in the third quarter. 

Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by 20,000 for the week ending September 11 to hit 332,000 even as federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefits expired. We expect the downward trend in initial claims through August to resume this fall. It is no surprise to see some choppy data in late summer as businesses and households adjust to COVID-D, back-to-office and back-to-school. Continuing claims for the week ending September 4 fell by 187,000, to hit 2,665,500, about 10 million claims lower than they were this time last year. The total number of all continuing claims for all benefit programs increased by 178,937 for the week ending August 28, to hit 12,106,727. 

Market Reaction: Equity markets moved lower after the open. The 10-year Treasury yield increased to 1.34 percent. NYMEX crude oil is down to $71.87/barrel. Natural gas futures are down to $5.32/mmbtu.



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September 16, 2021
Robert A. Dye, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Comerica Bank

Robert A. Dye, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President and Chief Economist
Daniel Sanabria, Senior Economist at Comerica Bank

Daniel Sanabria

Senior Economist

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