Sep 14, 2023 - Economy

Retail sales jump as gas prices soared

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Americans ramped up spending last month as prices for gasoline spiked: retail sales rose a larger-than-expected 0.6% in August, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Why it matters: The data, which is not adjusted for inflation, shows consumers spent more as costs at the pump surged. But excluding those costs, shoppers still look resilient in the face of higher prices.

By the numbers: The jump in retail sales is much larger than the 0.1% monthly increase that economists expected.

  • It's also slightly larger than the 0.5% increase in July, which was revised a tick lower.

Between the lines: Consumers increased spending notably at gasoline stations last month: up more than 5% in August, a byproduct of higher gas prices.

  • Still, stripping out spending at gasoline stations and auto shops, consumer spending rose by 0.2% last month — better than the decline of 0.1% economists anticipated.

The bottom line: Economists anticipate that a slew of factors — including the resumption of student loan payments — will weigh on consumer spending in the months to come.

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