May food and retail sales totaled $362.5 billion, lower than April, but 6.9 percent higher than May 2009, the Census Bureau reported. Retail trade sales slipped 1.4 percent from April, but maintained a 7.4 percent boost over last year. Gasoline stations sales grew 20.2 percent from May 2009, while non-store retailer sales were up 15.6 percent from 2009.
May's decline included a 9.3 percent drop in building material, garden equipment and supply stores, according to Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations. In his Weekly Economic Recap, Costello points out that the drop in sales follows two months of robust gains.
"Today's data reflects what we know to be true: uncertainty remains and there is work left to do to ensure long-term economic stability," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "Overall, consumer spending has increased modestly this quarter, and as Americans continue to cut down their debt, financial positions will improve. That will help spur future economic growth and help put people back to work."
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau said manufacturers' and trade inventories were about $1.35 trillion in April, a gain of 0.4 percent from March but down 2.8 percent from April 2009. According to reports by Reuters, this is the highest it has been since June 2009.
In addition, business distributive trade sales and manufacturers' shipments were up 0.6 percent in April, a gain of 13.1 percent from the year-ago month.
The inventories/sales ratio of total business, including manufacturing, wholesale, and retail, was at a record low of 1.23 in April, said Costello. The April 2009 ratio was 1.43.