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June Retail Sales Get Lift from Auto, Gas Prices

Driven by stronger auto sales and rising gasoline prices, total retail sales increased 0.4 percent in June, down from May's increase, the ""Census Bureau"":http://www2.census.gov/retail/releases/historical/marts/adv1306.pdf reported Monday.

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Economists had expected sales to increase 0.8 percent. May retail sales were revised to show an increase of percent, up from the originally reported 0.5 percent.

The report suggested continuing struggles for the consumer sector, which represents 70 percent of the economy.

Excluding auto and gasoline sales, retail activity dropped 0.1 percent after increasing 0.3 percent in May.

Total retail activity rose $1.6 billion in June compared with an increase of $2.25 billion in May. Auto sales accounted for $1.4 billion of the June increase and sales at gasoline stations another $316 million. Gasoline prices rose about 1 cent per gallon from May ($3.68) to June ($3.69).

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Restaurant sales dipped $570 million or 1.2 percent in June.

The slower increase in retail sales came in the same month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported almost 37,000 new retail jobs and nearly 52,000 new food service jobs, together accounting for 46 percent of all new payroll jobs in June.

In June, sales at building material and garden supply stores dropped $574 million from May, the largest month-over-month decline since May 2012, when sales at fell $743 million. Sales increased in June at furniture stores, clothing stores, and health and personal care stores, but dropped at electronics stores and food and beverage.

While often reported as a measure of consumer activity, the retail sales report is price-driven. Data in the report are ""adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes,"" according to the Census Bureau.

On a year-over-year basis, June sales were up 5.7 percent compared with a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase in May.

Sales increased $782 million at non-store retailers, improving for the eighth straight month and the 15th time in the last 17 months, threatening commercial retail space.

_Hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S.--Sirius 124--every Friday at 6:20 a.m. Eastern._

About Author: Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.
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