Mar 14, 2024 - Economy

Retail sales rebound in February after shopping pullback

NYC shoppers

Shoppers are seen in New York City. Photo: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images

American shoppers increased spending in February, but revised figures show retail sales were much weaker at the start of the year than previously thought, the government said on Thursday.

Why it matters: The new figures may raise concerns about the health of the U.S. consumer that had once looked unstoppable and fueled a stronger-than-expected economy.

By the numbers: Retail sales rose 0.6% in February from the previous month, the Commerce Department said—helped in part by strong spending at gasoline stations as pump prices rose. The data are not adjusted for inflation.

  • Spending fell 1.1% in January — a bigger drop than the 0.8% decline it initially estimated.

Zoom in: Most retail categories saw an increase in spending in February. Among the largest increases: building material shops (+2.2%), motor vehicle and parts dealers (+1.6%), electronics stores (+1.5%) and gas stations (+0.9%).

  • Sales dropped at furniture stores and clothing retailers.

The bottom line: Strong spending was backed last year by a booming job market and rising wages.

  • Separate data released on Thursday continued to show low levels of unemployment filings, suggesting a still-solid labor market. But the latest retail sales data shows consumers might be becoming a little more wary about opening their wallets.
Go deeper