Consumer Spending - September 2010

Retail sales in August posted the largest monthly gain since March.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total retail sales increased 0.4 percent and core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) increased 0.6 percent in August.
  • Sales at food, clothing, and personal care stores posted fairly large gains over the month, perhaps because of back-to-school sales. Meanwhile, retailers of large-ticket items such as furniture, autos, and electronics posted declines in sales.

Despite the monthly gain, retail sales are still consistent with moderate growth in consumer spending compared with a year earlier.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the pace of growth for retail sales slowed from 5.4 percent in July to 3.6 percent in August on a year-over-year basis.
  • Core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) remained at 4.1 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 1.9 percent in August compared with a year earlier.

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

  • Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee all noticed slightly higher sales tax collections in August compared with a year earlier.
  • Mississippi and Georgia experienced declining revenues in August compared with last year, but the rate of decline has been abating over the past several months.

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

  • According to the University of Michigan's preliminary report, overall consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in a year in September.
  • Consumer sentiment increased slightly in the South Census region in September but still remains low.

Tourism activity in the District was mixed in August, and the overall impact of the oil spill on the industry remains unknown.

  • Smith Travel Research included six District cities in its list of the top 25 U.S. tourist markets in August. Of those six, only Miami had hotel occupancy rates above the national average of 63.9 in August.
  • The extent of the impact of the oil spill on the hospitality industry along the Gulf Coast is still unknown. According to an estimate by Oxford Economics, the effects of the spill on travel could last up to three years and cost the region $22.7 billion.
  • A survey conducted by the Knowland Group indicated that 66 percent of hotels along the Gulf Coast reported an increase in room bookings due to the oil spill cleanup.
  • Other areas in the District have reported an increase in activity as a result of deflected business from oil-affected areas.

Gaming tax revenues in Mississippi continued to improve in August.

District-assembled vehicle sales in August increased 26 percent from a year earlier, nearly twice the nation's pace.

  • District-assembled vehicle sales in August jumped 26 percent from last year, led by rising volumes from Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes, and Nissan.
  • Hyundai-Kia sales jumped 86 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 July.

  • Year over year, District new vehicle registrations in July registered a 14 percent increase in July, a much weaker performance than in previous months.
  • Nationally, new vehicle registrations were up 11 percent on a year-over-year basis.