Retail Sales Rose in August, Highlighting Uneven Consumer Spending

The 0.7 percent climb in sales last month comes after a 1.8 percent decline in July and gains earlier in the summer.

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Retail sales rose in August, highlighting an inconsistency of consumer spending.

Gains in consumer spending in August were prompted by a rise in spending on clothing, electronics and furniture and home goods.Credit…Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Sept. 16, 2021, 8:45 a.m. ET

Retail sales increased slightly in August, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, highlighting an uneven pace for the economic recovery as spending behavior swings month over month.

The 0.7 percent climb in sales last month comes after a 1.8 percent decline in July and gains earlier in the summer. The gains in August, better than what economists expected, were prompted by a rise in spending on clothing, electronics and furniture and home goods.

Sales at bars and restaurants fell, coming down after a steady rise in July.

Prices of consumer goods continued to climb in August, albeit at a slower pace, according to data from the Labor Department released this week. The Consumer Price Index rose 5.3 percent in August from a year earlier, the data showed, suggesting inflationary pressures are starting to ease.

The University of Michigan will publish its monthly consumer sentiment index on Friday, a key indicator regarding the economic recovery and consumer behavior. The index fell more than 13 percent in July because consumers expected price increases to continue.

With more employers announcing mandates, the pace of coronavirus vaccinations had been trending steadily upward through the Labor Day holiday, giving economists reason for optimism if cases and hospitalizations level off or decline in September.

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