Consumer Spending - August 2009
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, national retail sales in July fell 0.05 percent from June, and retail sales excluding autos fell 0.56 percent, reflecting the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program's positive impact on retail sales. Core retail sales (excluding autos, gas, and building supplies) decreased 0.21 percent. Retail sales overall remain well below year-earlier levels.
In the Sixth District, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee all saw increasing sales tax revenues on a month-over-month basis in July; however, on a year-over-year basis, sales tax collections increased in only Georgia and Florida.
According to our informal survey of District retailers, 65 percent of respondents reported their July sales were below year-earlier levels, both traffic and inventories remained low, and the outlook continued to be fairly weak.
The CARS program was seen as boosting July traffic and sales for most District dealers. Import brand dealers posted a superior performance in July because demand for fuel-efficient vehicles was greater than their limited supply of these compacts. According to data from Automotive News, sales of District-assembled vehicles through July 2009 were still off by 31 percent from comparable 2008 levels but had improved from a 50 percent decline in June. Most regional companies reported lower vehicle inventories in early August than in early July.
For the three-month period ending June 2009, District new vehicle registrations declined 35 percent from year-earlier levels. The nation's comparable decline was about 32 percent. For the last three months, the pace of decline has slowed both nationally and for the District.
Tourism activity in the District remained weak in July. According to reports from VisitFlorida, average daily room rates for hotels have fallen 10 percent from April, and occupancy rates are down 8.6 percent over the same time period. The number of visitors to Florida in the second quarter of 2009 fell 9.2 percent from the second quarter of 2008.
In June, Mississippi Gulf Coast gaming revenue collections fell to just over $84 million, the lowest level since August 2006. Gaming revenues are down 27.7 percent compared to a year earlier and down 13.9 percent on a month-over-month basis.