Consumer Spending - April 2009
March national retail sales excluding autos fell 0.9 percent from February. Core sales, which exclude autos and gasoline, were down 0.9 percent from the previous month. Sales remain well below year-earlier levels.
According to District retailers, March sales were aligned with the national decrease; contacts continued to report disappointing sales and traffic. District sales tax collections through March continued to decrease. And all District states’ sales tax revenues were significantly below year-earlier levels.
Regional auto dealers suggested that uncertain business conditions and tight credit were the major contributing factors in the dismal first quarter performance as compared to a year earlier. Import vehicle dealers in the District reported that traffic and sales through March were down sharply from year-earlier levels. Also, sales of District-assembled vehicles for the first three months of 2009 were down sharply on a year-over-year basis. All companies, with the exception of Hyundai, posted double-digit declines. Hyundai sales were down only slightly because promotional guarantees helped traffic and sales.
Tourism activity in the District was weaker in March and early April than previously reported, reflecting the general slowdown in economic activity. Spring break did not provide a much-anticipated boost to economic activity in the District.
Parts of south Florida saw a sharp decline in tourism activity. According to recent reports, occupancy rates in March were down 10 percent in Broward County, 15 percent in Palm Beach County, and 12 percent in Miami-Dade County compared to a year earlier. Average room rates in March saw even sharper year-over-declines, dropping 19 percent in Broward County, 20 percent in Palm Beach County, and 14 percent in Miami-Dade County. Orlando experienced a slight increase in tourism activity after Easter, with an occupancy rate of 72.8 percent for the week that ended April 12—4 percent higher than in the same period last year. The average daily room rate and the revenue per available room were significantly lower than last year as hotels continued to discount significantly.
In Mississippi, gaming revenue collections in the Gulf Coast counties declined 15.8 percent in March compared to a year earlier, though collections increased 2 percent on a month-over-month basis.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that in February international visitors spent $10.1 billion on travel to the United States and on tourism-related activities within the country, 13 percent less than in the same month in 2008.