skip navigation

By the Numbers

Featuring brief segments of economic analysis from our senior economist Michael Bazdarich, PhD.

The economic analysis we previously featured in By the Numbers is now available on the Western Asset Blog. This page will no longer be updated.

April Retail Sales Show Good Gains, but No Acceleration

Headline retail sales showed a 0.3% gain in April, on top of a 0.3% upward revision to the March estimate. For the "control" sales measure we track, sales were also up 0.3%, with a 0.4% upward revision to March.

The last two months now show better sales growth than what we saw over December through February. However, as you can see in the chart, the recent gains are not a significant departure from the trends of the last few years. 4% annual sales growth indicates a good growth pace in consumer spending on goods.

Services consumption is growing much more slowly, though, so that overall consumer spending growth is just decent. The consumer has not as yet contributed any to the faster economic growth that the Federal Reserve and various pundits expect.

Unlike the control sales measure that others track, our measure includes restaurant sales. Like the others, we exclude sales at car dealers, building materials stores and gas stations since retail sales there cover business purchases as well as consumer purchases. However, we see no reason to exclude restaurant sales on that score. For the record, restaurant sales declined slightly in April, after decent gains in February and March.

In general, again, the April sales news continues the trends of recent years. It is the big gains we saw in November that are the outlier. A couple months ago, many analysts thought those November gains signaled the start of a burst of rapid growth in consumer spending. Our take all along has been that those gains reflected some early Christmas shopping that would fade with the holiday season.

The last five months' data have been in line with our take. Consumption is holding up, but it is not contributing to any acceleration in overall economic growth.

Retail Sales Trends
Retail Sales Trends
Source: Census Bureau, as of 30 Apr 18. "Control" retail sales is total sales less vehicle dealers, service stations and building materials stores.

Michael Bazdarich

Product Specialist/Economist

Mike brings more than 45 years of experience to his position. "By the Numbers" will address economic data releases that are pertinent to a broad range of investors.

Prior to joining the Firm in 2005, Mike ran his own consulting firm, MB Economics. He earned his PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago.

Sign up to receive email updates as new reports are released.

© Western Asset Management Company, LLC 2022. This publication is the property of Western Asset and is intended for the sole use of its clients, consultants, and other intended recipients. It should not be forwarded to any other person. Contents herein should be treated as confidential and proprietary information. This material may not be reproduced or used in any form or medium without express written permission.
Past results are not indicative of future investment results. This publication is for informational purposes only and reflects the current opinions of Western Asset. Information contained herein is believed to be accurate, but cannot be guaranteed. Opinions represented are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security and are subject to change without notice. Statements in this material should not be considered investment advice. Employees and/or clients of Western Asset may have a position in the securities mentioned. This publication has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is your responsibility to be aware of and observe the applicable laws and regulations of your country of residence.
Western Asset Management Company Distribuidora de Títulos e Valores Mobiliários Limitada is authorized and regulated by Comissão de Valores Mobiliários and Brazilian Central Bank. Western Asset Management Company Pty Ltd ABN 41 117 767 923 is the holder of the Australian Financial Services Licence 303160. Western Asset Management Company Pte. Ltd. Co. Reg. No. 200007692R is a holder of a Capital Markets Services Licence for fund management and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Western Asset Management Company Ltd is a registered Financial Instruments Business Operator and regulated by the Financial Services Agency of Japan. Western Asset Management Company Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) (FRN 145930). This communication is intended for distribution to Professional Clients only if deemed to be a financial promotion in the UK as defined by the FCA. This communication may also be intended for certain EEA countries where Western Asset has been granted permission to do so. For the current list of the approved EEA countries please contact Western Asset at +44 (0)20 7422 3000.