Economy Watch: Retail Sales Up in May

Americans were out spending a bit more of their money in stores in May.

Americans were out spending a bit more of their money in stores in May, with total retail sales up 0.5 percent compared with April, according to the Census Bureau on Tuesday. Compared with May 2015, total sales were up 2.5 percent. The bureau adjusts its calculations for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

Most retail categories enjoyed sales gains for the month. Even gas stations experienced an increase—up 2.1 percent for the month because of rising gas prices. On the other hand, general merchandise stores, including big boxes and smaller dollar stores, suffered a decline in sales of 0.3 percent for the month, with department stores—which can’t catch a break these days—off 0.9 percent.

Year-over-year, most retailers also saw gains in sales. But not everyone: gas stations, naturally, were off 9.5 percent since last year, because of price changes. Electronic store sales were off 3.1 percent for the year, because of stiff Internet competition. And department stores saw sales shrink 5.8 percent since last year, because retail is increasingly becoming obsolete.

The Census Bureau also noted that non-store sales were up 1.3 percent for the month and a whopping 12.2 percent for the year in May. Internet sales, in other words, which have been on a persistent growth track for years.