Consumer Spending - May 2008
State tax revenue reports indicate that taxable retail sales in March remained sluggish. According to contacts in the retail sector, sales were generally flat to slightly down on a year-over-year basis.
According to our informal survey of District retailers, sales in April continued to disappoint. Most contacts reported that sales continued to decline in April compared with a year earlier. The majority of contacts reported that sales did not meet expectations. Relative to the March survey, more contacts in April reported that inventories were heavier than a year earlier and were too high. The outlook among retailers was mixed and slightly more encouraging than in March.
District vehicle sales remained weak. New vehicle registrations through March were almost 8 percent below year-earlier levels, only a slight improvement from the previous month's decline. Nationally, comparable vehicle registrations were also down 8 percent. The District declines were led by truck and SUV registrations. District contacts reported that April vehicle sales were disappointing for both domestic and import brand dealers.
Data from Automotive News for District-assembled vehicles show that sales for the first four months of 2008 were down 14 percent on a year-over-year basis. Mercedes was the only company reporting gains in vehicle sales during early 2008. Weak sales for Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai prompted cuts in production.
Tourism activity in the District was robust during the first quarter of 2008. International visitors are boosting tourism in the region, particularly in Florida and New Orleans. According to Visit Florida, the number of visitors to Florida during the first quarter of 2008 was estimated at 23.8 million, an increase of 3.4 percent over the year-earlier period. Domestic visitors accounted for 91.5 percent of total visitors. The number of international visitors increased 2 percent—with preliminary numbers showing a 6.6 percent increase in Canadian visitors—from a year earlier. Aeromexico's intentions of flying an additional 91 charter flights into the Orlando International Airport in July and August boosted expectations for the summer months.
Tourism activity in New Orleans continued to increase. Initial reports indicated attendance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the end of April and the first week of May was higher than last year. The city is drawing more convention visitors, and more than 30 conventions each with a minimum attendance of 3,000 are scheduled for 2008. In March passenger arrivals at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport increased 16.8 percent and departures increased 15.1 percent compared to a year earlier.
In Mississippi, gaming revenues were $97.1 million in April, down from March and the lowest gaming tax revenue collections since October 2007. Higher gas prices are partly responsible for the decline.