WASHINGTON – Lower-priced gas allowed Americans to step up their spending at retailers in April, from cars and clothes to electronics and appliances. The rebound from a weak March suggests consumers remain resilient in the face of higher taxes and could continue to drive economic growth this spring.
Retail sales edged up 0.1 percent in April, the Commerce Department said Monday. That’s an improvement from a 0.5 percent decline in March, the largest drop in nine months.
The April gain was stronger when taking out the effect of lower gas prices, which reduced sales at gas stations 4.7 percent. The retail sales report is not adjusted for price changes.
When excluding gas station sales, retail spending rose 0.7 percent. And core retail sales, which exclude gas, autos and building supplies, increased 0.5 percent. Economists pay close attention to core sales because they strip out the most volatile categories.
Sales of autos rose 1 percent in April, rebounding from a 0.6 percent drop in March. Sales at clothing stores increased 1.2 percent and sales at general merchandise stores, a category that covers department stores, rose 1 percent. Sales were also strong at building materials and garden supply stores and electronics and appliance stores.
Consumers increased spending despite paying higher Social Security taxes that have reduced their paychecks. Their spending will likely add to growth in the April-June quarter.