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May spending slows streak

Consumers show concerns about jobs and housing

After a two-month streak in March and April that saw a spur in economic activity at retail, shoppers slowed their spending in May as the country's economic outlook remained uncertain, the National Retail Federation reported last week.

In May, retail industry sales decreased 1.4% seasonally adjusted over April but increased 2.7% unadjusted year over year, in figures which exclude sales of automobiles and at gas stations and restaurants.

"May retail sales results represent a reminder of the uncertainly that still exists in the economy," NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said. "The road to recovery is paved with caution as consumers remain concerned about key indicators such as employment and housing."

The U.S. Commerce Department's May retail sales show total retail sales, which include sales of non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles and from gasoline stations and restaurants, decreased 1.2% seasonally adjusted over April while increasing 6.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Still, results give reason for optimism, noted Rosalind Wells, NRF's chief economist.

"Even though May sales were not as strong as previous months, we remain encouraged by the steady pace of the economic recovery," she said. "Ultimately consumer momentum will be tied to our economy's ability to add private sector jobs."

While not as robust as seen over the course of the year so far, retail sales in some sectors did report slight increases, the NRF said. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores increased 1.0% seasonally adjusted month to month and 4.6% unadjusted year over year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted from April and 3.3% unadjusted over last year. And electronics and appliance stores sales increased 0.6% seasonally adjusted from last month and 4.6% unadjusted over last year.

However, clothing and clothing accessory stores sales decreased 1.3% seasonally adjusted and increased 2.9% unadjusted.

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