Sales at retail stores surged in May, but the increase was a double-edged sword. Americans are spending more because of a strong economy, but rising inflation also means they have to pay more for gas and other staples.
Retail sales nationwide jumped by 0.8% last month, twice as high as the MarketWatch forecast. Sales growth in April and March were also revised up sharply, partly reflecting changes in how the government calculates the numbers.
Retail sales have risen a solid 5.9% over the past 12 months, the government said Thursday. Sales are rising at a more than 5% yearly pace even if gas is excluded.
Restaurants and clothing stores posted strong sales, and in a bit of a surprise, traditional brick-and-mortar department stores outpaced their Internet rivals.
Auto sales also rose 0.5%. The auto sector generates about one-fifth of all retail spending.
Sales fell at stores that sell sporting goods, books, music and home furnishings.
Retail sales in April, meanwhile, were raised to show a 0.4% gain from an initial 0.2% reading. Sales in March grew 0.7% instead of being unchanged.