Consumer Spending - February 2011

Retail sales increased less than expected in January and were revised down slightly for November and December.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total retail sales increased 0.3 percent and core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) increased 0.4 percent in January. Retail sales in previous months were revised down slightly, showing an increase of 0.8 percent in November and 0.5 percent in December.
  • Sales among retail categories were mixed over the month. Gas stations, food and beverage stores, autos, and health and personal care stores contributed most to the monthly gain.

The pace of retail sales on a year-over-year basis remained largely unchanged from rates in December.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the pace of growth for retail sales increased 7.8 percent in January on a year-over-year basis.
  • Core retail sales (excluding gas, autos, and building supplies) remained at 5.1 percent for the second consecutive month.

Sales tax collections increased strongly on a year-over-year basis for the Sixth District.

  • Sales tax revenues for the Southeast were up 4.9 percent in December compared with a year earlier. The rate of sales tax collections for the District as a whole has been increasing since July 2010.

Although sales tax collections continue to improve across the District, sales tax revenues are still relatively low for most District states.

  • All Sixth District states had year-over-year increases in sales tax collections in December. Georgia had the largest increase (5.4 percent) while Louisiana had the second largest (5.3 percent).
  • Sales tax collections increased 5.1 percent in Florida while Alabama and Tennessee both had increases of 4.5 percent compared with a year earlier. Mississippi posted a modest gain of 3.3 percent.

Consumer confidence in the United States and the South increased in February.

  • According to the University of Michigan's preliminary report, overall consumer confidence increased in February but remains below pre-recessionary levels.
  • The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index for the South Census region also increased in February and is in line with the overall U.S. Consumer Sentiment Index.

Tourism activity in the District has shown a modest increase over the holidays, and contacts in the industry are optimistic about the outlook.

  • Overall, holiday activity for leisure and business travel was up moderately over the previous year.
  • Across the District, hotel occupancy and convention bookings have increased slightly compared to a year earlier and cruise traffic remains strong. According to STR Global, five of the six District cities listed in the top 25 hotel markets have occupancy rates above the national average in January.
  • Restaurant activity has also increased modestly as the economy and consumer confidence improves.
  • The outlook for 2011 among District tourism contacts is positive for continued recovery.

Gaming tax revenues in Mississippi increased slightly in December.

District-assembled vehicle sales in January increased 18 percent from a year earlier, slightly above the nation's pace.

  • District-assembled vehicle sales in December increased 18 percent from last year, slightly above the total U.S. vehicle sales.
  • The increase in the District was led by Hyundai-Kia, increasing 24 percent, and GM, increasing 22 percent.