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Economic News

United States: Retail Sales Posted Solid Gains in March, but Not across All Sectors

April 15, 2024
Francis Généreux
Principal Economist


  • Retail sales rose 0.7% in March, after gains of 0.9% in February (revised up from 0.6%). Excluding cars and fuel, sales were up 1.0%.


Retail sales continued to recover in March. The rebound began in February, after a 0.9% drop in January. If we exclude autos and gasoline stations, sales have even begun to accelerate: the 1% increase is the strongest we've seen since January 2023.

That being said, not all retailers posted gains in March. Sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers slid 0.7%, which is no surprise given the new motor vehicle sales figures that were released at the start of the month. Durable goods sales were also rather weak, particularly for furniture (-0.3%), and electronics and appliances (-1.2%). These results undoubtedly reflect the continued high interest rates. We also noticed poor showings from clothing stores (-1.6%), recreational goods stores (-1.8%) and department stores (-1.1%). All of these declines show that sales growth in March was not very widespread.

So who did come out ahead? Nonstore retailers had the strongest gains, surging 2.7% This is their best monthly growth since January 2022. Without this sector, retail sales would only have grown 0.3%. Other sectors that did well include building materials stores, grocery stores, general merchandise stores (other than department stores), food services and retailers in the "miscellaneous" category.

The strong retail sales figures for February and March suggest that real consumption was on the rise in Q1 2024, especially since goods prices have grown at a much weaker pace. While January's data was not good, the situation has changed and household spending could contribute positively to real GDP growth.


Household spending continues to grow in the United States. Some sectors are experiencing more difficulties than others, but overall sales are doing well despite continued high interest rates. This news, combined with other recent indicators, suggests that the Federal Reserve may be more patient than recently expected when it comes to cutting interest rates.

NOTE TO READERS: The letters k, M and B are used in texts, graphs and tables to refer to thousands, millions and billions respectively. IMPORTANT: This document is based on public information and may under no circumstances be used or construed as a commitment by Desjardins Group. While the information provided has been determined on the basis of data obtained from sources that are deemed to be reliable, Desjardins Group in no way warrants that the information is accurate or complete. The document is provided solely for information purposes and does not constitute an offer or solicitation for purchase or sale. Desjardins Group takes no responsibility for the consequences of any decision whatsoever made on the basis of the data contained herein and does not hereby undertake to provide any advice, notably in the area of investment services. Data on prices and margins is provided for information purposes and may be modified at any time based on such factors as market conditions. The past performances and projections expressed herein are no guarantee of future performance. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions and forecasts contained herein are those of the document’s authors and do not represent the opinions of any other person or the official position of Desjardins Group.