According to U.S. Census Bureau data released Friday, U.S. retail and food services sales were up 8.8 percent from April 2009, the largest gain since July 2005. Retail trade sales grew 0.5 percent from March 2010, with a 9.6 percent boost over April 2009.
"To be sure, year-over-year comparisons are easier as retail sales were plunging a year ago," said Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations, in his Weekly Economic Recap. "Nevertheless, consumers are spending more, which will help sustain the economic recovery."
Costello said sales by sector were somewhat mixed. Gasoline stations sales gained 30.1 percent year-over-year, while motor vehicle and parts dealers sales increased by 15.1 percent from last year, the Census Bureau reported. Sales of building and garden materials rose 0.5 percent in April, while revenue at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores were down nearly 2 percent. Department store sales were off 1.5 percent, while food and beverage stores saw sales decrease 0.5 percent.
Also on Friday, the Federal Reserve released figures for April industrial production, which increased 0.8 percent, better than indicated by the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index. Ceridian says the PCI closely tracks the Federal Reserve's monthly Industrial Production index. The most recent PCI predicted industrial production would grow by 0.4 percent in April.
In addition, the Federal Reserve said manufacturing output increased 1 percent in April and is now at its highest level since November 2008. Capacity utilization for manufacturing was up 0.8 percent to 70.8 percent. This is 5.7 percentage points higher than its trough in June 2009. Compared with April 2009, manufacturing output rose 6.5 percent, the largest year-over-year boost in 10 years, Costello said in his analysis.
Durable goods production was 1.1 percent higher in April, with all major categories strengthening, except for motor vehicles and parts and aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment. Nondurable manufacturing grew 1 percent in April.