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Christmastime U.S. Retail Sales Update

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This is an excerpt from our most recent Economic Outlook report. To access the full PDF, please click here.

The Big Four Accounting Firm PwC put together their HOLIDAY OUTLOOK 2022.

In it, they write. Overall, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $1,430 on gifts, travel and entertainment this year — very similar to the $1,447 they spent last year. That's up +20% over pandemic-ravaged 2020 and more than +10% over 2019.

Consumers will spend $1,430 on average, with:

$754 dropped on gifts,
$452 on travel, and
$224 on entertainment.

“Despite citing fears of inflation and the rising costs of transportation and utilities as deterrents to holiday spending, most consumers — 74% — told us they plan to spend the same or more this holiday season as they did last year.”

In light of that, let’s review the state of U.S. retail sales, as a DEC Zacks macro econ Xmas update.

I. Overall U.S. Retail Sales. Then, Sales Ex Motor Vehicles & Parts & Gasoline Stations.

I took a look into Advance Retail Sales for the USA, going back thru the data over last 20 years.

Regardless of whether you exclude Motor Vehicles and Parts Dealer and Gasoline Stations, or not, the retail sales numbers in the USA do indeed look robust.

Confirm that yourself, in the FRED chart below.

U.S. Retail Sales (1992-2022)

St Louis Fed
Image Source: St Louis Fed


II. Looking at Overall Retail Trade Employment Levels. Then, Retail Job Openings.

The next FRED macro econ chart dives in the picture of U.S. Retail Trade job conditions.

The first thing I want you to note: Since the 2000 arrival of the Internet and online shopping, physical retail job counts topped out, at somewhere between 15.6M and 16M in the USA.

As you can see, we are back to the middle of that range. In sum, hiring in the U.S. retail area is likely maxed out.

Retail Trade Employees (blue line) and Job Openings (red line) from 1992 to 2022

St Louis Fed
Image Source: St Louis Fed


The U.S. civilian labor force in August 2022 was 164.7M. The employed made up 158.7M of that number. So basically, the current physical U.S. retail scene makes up ~10% of U.S. jobs.

The red line shows you Retail Trade Job Openings. These have indeed sunk from extremely high record levels seen in 2021, to 2018-2019 levels.

This is still a quite strong level of permanent job demand, in the retail space of the U.S. economy.

Now, let’s turn to sizable areas of spending within the U.S. retail spending scene.

III. Looking at Five Important Retail Sales Groups.

In the next FRED chart, I can show you enduring U.S. retail sales strength flowing from:

#1. Nonstore retailers. That is the online shopper, in short. He or she is alive and well, post-COVID.

#2. Food Service & Drinking Places lands in 2nd. Again, it has never been stronger, in 20 years.

#3. Gasoline Stations? Yes. It humped over, as prices declined recently. But the trend stays up.

#4. Building Materials, Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers? This is Lowe's (LOW - Free Report) and Home Depot (HD - Free Report) . This spending looks stable. Robust.

#5. Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instruments and Book Stores. This is a much lower level of spending category. But it is chugging along too.

In-Depth Zacks Research for the Tickers Above

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Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW) - free report >>

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