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Today the U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary estimates of nationwide retail sales in February 2023 and revised estimates for January 2023. (The data include both brick-and-mortar and Internet sales.)

Retail Sales Growing. Seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales increased by 2 percent from November to February. Cumulative twelve-month growth in sales from February 2022 to February 2023 was 5.4 percent.

Recent One-Month Changes Too Volatile to Be Informative. As noted last month, recent patterns suggest that the Census Bureau’s seasonal adjustment for retail sales might not be working as intended. Until these concerns are addressed, numbers that are less sensitive to seasonal patterns---such as the three-month and twelve-month growth rates noted above---likely provide more useful information than monthly numbers.

Inflation-Adjusted Sales Flat Over Last 12 Months. Across all goods and services purchased by consumers, U.S. prices increased by 1 percent from November to February. From February 2022 to February 2023, prices grew 6 percent, roughly offsetting the 5.4 percent growth in sales over that twelve-month period.


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