Retail Sales Were Down in May. Time to Panic?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Commerce Department reported today that retail sales in May were down 0.3 percent. But not really. Inflation was actually negative last month, so in real terms the decline was only 0.1 percent. It also means the decline wasn’t “the sharpest since a 1% decrease in January 2016.” There have been five declines in the past two years bigger than May’s, including a drop of 0.32 percent just three months ago.

So should we just relax about last month’s weak retail figures? I’ll let you decide. For the affirmative, there’s this chart:

Nothing much there, really. But for the negative, there’s this chart:

The trendline is pretty steadily down. Roughly speaking, this confirms my current belief that the economy is still doing OK, but a little less OK as time goes on. It seems like our nine-year expansion may be slowly running out of steam.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate