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Retail Sales Numbers: Happy Holidays Indeed

For anyone with lingering thoughts that the first Black Friday reports indicated economic weakness, take heart: The November retail sales numbers released by the Commerce Department this morning showed solid, even strong growth, beating analyst expectations. Retail sales rose 0.7 percent for the month, the largest increase in eight months, and up 5.1 percent year-over-year. Every category was up except gas stations – understandable, given the decline in crude oil prices – and the very small category “miscellaneous.”

Some organizations had reported Black Friday weekend sales were down substantially over the same period a year ago, but Bob Hughes, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, said he has some reservations about whether these measurements are meaningful. The methodologies, he said today, are often “nowhere near as robust and comprehensive as the government data collection.” Furthermore, some major retailers also decided to deemphasize the weekend, starting sales earlier to avoid masses of people converging on their doors at midnight, he said.

“We want to stay data-driven,” Hughes said. Regarding today’s release, “This is a more comprehensive set of data, and overall, the takeaway is, it’s a good report.”

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