Consumer Spending - October 2010

Retail sales increased more than expected in September, reflecting widespread gains among retail categories.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total retail sales increased 0.6 percent in September, and core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) increased 0.4 percent.
  • The increase in total retail sales for September was widespread among retail categories over the month. Sales at apparel retailers posted a decline over the month following an increase of 0.5 percent in August.

Compared with a year earlier, retail sales improved in September.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the pace of growth for retail sales was up 4.1 percent in August and 7.3 percent in September on a year-over-year basis.
  • Core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) remained at 4.9 percent on a year-over-year basis for the second consecutive month.

Districtwide, consumer spending improved on a year-over-year basis but remains tepid.

  • Sales tax revenues for the Southeast were up 2.9 percent in September compared with a year earlier.

Although most states experienced an improvement over the past few months, sales tax revenue remains soft across the Southeast.

  • All Sixth District states had year-over-year increases in sales tax collections in September. Georgia had the largest year-over-year increase of 8.5 percent, while Tennessee had the second-largest growth in collections (6 percent). Alabama added 2.5 percent from September 2009, while Louisiana (+1.4 percent), Florida (+1.1 percent), and Mississippi (+0.1 percent) had gains of less than 2 percent.

Consumer confidence in the United States and the South remained low in October.

  • According to the University of Michigan's preliminary report, overall consumer confidence was little changed in October. The index still remains well below prerecessionary levels.
  • The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for the South Census region has moved back in line with the overall U.S. consumer sentiment index after falling lower in July and August, likely a reflection of the oil spill.

Meanwhile, tourism activity in the District has shown improvement, and contacts in the industry are optimistic about the outlook.

  • According to the Federal Aviation Administration, of the 30 busiest airports in the United States, Atlanta ranks number one, and the airports in Orlando, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale are also on the list.
  • Passenger traffic at some of the major airports in the District shows improvement compared with a year earlier, especially in international visitors.
  • Smith Travel Research included six District cities in its list of the top 25 U.S. tourist markets. Of those six, Nashville had a hotel occupancy rate above the national average of 59.9 in September.
  • The members of the travel and tourism advisory council, who meet twice a year at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Miami Branch, reported that for their industry recovery was well on its way and that the outlook has brightened. For more, see SouthPoint.

Gaming tax revenues in Mississippi edged down in September.

District-assembled vehicle sales in September jumped 27 percent from a year earlier, far above the nation's 10 percent increase.

  • District-assembled vehicle sales in September jumped 27 percent from last year, led by rising volumes from Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes, and Nissan.
  • Hyundai-Kia sales jumped 90 percent on a year-over-year basis. One-fourth of the company's gains are from sales of the new Kia Sorento crossover.

The pace of District vehicle registrations slowed in August.

  • Year over year, District new vehicle registrations in August registered a 6 percent increase, a much weaker performance than in previous months.
  • Nationally, new vehicle registrations were down 1 percent on a year-over-year basis.