Retail sales rose at a healthy pace in December, a sign that a very healthy U.S. labor market and consumer optimism is continuing to support economic growth.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales–which measures sales at stores, online, and in restaurants–increased a seasonally adjusted three-tenths of a percentage point in December compared with November to $529.6 billion. That was in line with the consensus forecast.
Excluding the volatile autos category, sales rose seven-tenths of a percentage point. That was much stronger than expected. Excluding autos and gas, retail sales rose five-tenths of a percentage point, the strongest gain in five months.
Auto sales fell 1.3 percent compared with November but were 4.1 percent compared with December of 2018.
On an annual basis, sales were up 5.9 percent. Almost every category showed strong gains. The exceptions were department stores, down 5.5 percent, and electronics and appliance stores, down seven-tenths of a percentage point. Online sales were up 19.2 percent. Sales at restaurants and bars were up 4.9 percent.