Monthly retail sales solid for four months running

Overall Michigan retail sales remained strong in May, the fourth consecutive month of positive performance, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of the Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Seventy-eight percent of retailers reported May sales were as good as or better than a year ago — the strongest showing since July 2015.

“Michigan’s unemployment rate fell in May. Consumer confidence rose in May. It’s no surprise, then, that shoppers were in a good state of mind and remained willing to make purchases,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan.

Retail sales increased across the United States. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales climbed 0.4 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The May Michigan Retail Index survey found 54 percent of Michigan retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 22 percent recorded declines and 24 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 65.1, down slightly from the year’s high of 66.0 in April. A year ago May, the performance index stood at 47.4.

The 100-point index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by MRA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 67 percent of retailers expect June-August sales to increase over the same period last year, while 10 percent project a decrease and 23 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 74.6, down from 80.1 in April. A year ago May, the outlook index stood at 73.

William Strauss is senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He can be reached at (312) 322-8151.

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