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Today the U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary estimates of nationwide retail sales in December 2022 and revised estimates for November 2022. (The data include both brick-and-mortar and Internet sales.)

Retail Sales Declined. Seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales declined 1.1 percent from November to December. Cumulative twelve-month growth in sales from December 2021 to December 2022 was 6 percent.

Historically, Drops This Large Have Happened Around Recessions. Sales declined 2.1 percent from October to December. In the 30-year history of the monthly retail sales data, this is just the ninth two-month drop of 2 percent or more. Seven of the prior eight instances (September-December 2008, March 2009, and March-April 2020) occurred during recessions, while the other (December 2001) occurred immediately after a recession. That said, only two of those drops (September 2008 and March 2009) were of a similar magnitude to this one; the others were substantially larger. Two-month declines around 1.5 percent have happened several times during economic expansions.

Inflation-Adjusted Sales Also Declined. Across all goods and services purchased by consumers, U.S. prices dropped 0.1 percent from November to December. From December 2021 to December 2022, prices grew 6.5 percent, more than offsetting the 6 percent growth in sales over that twelve-month period.


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