Retail Sales Were Down in May. Time to Panic?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

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.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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