Good retail sales don’t necessarily mean all’s well

Mark Garrison Jun 11, 2015
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Good retail sales don’t necessarily mean all’s well

Mark Garrison Jun 11, 2015
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New numbers out Thursday show American retail sales are up 1.2 percent. That’s a nice improvement from the previous month, when spending barely budged. The news has some on Wall Street smiling — but beware monthly snapshots.

“You have to not pay too much attention to ups and downs that happen monthly,” says former Fed economist Ann Owen, now a professor at Hamilton College.

Taking a wider view can paint a different picture for some analysts. Many are unsatisfied with the job market, particularly the quality of jobs being created and the wages workers are earning.

“Are we creating enough good jobs that will give you a decent middle-class standard of living?” asks Cary Leahey, senior adviser at Decision Economics. “There’s a lot of concern about that.”

Weaker paydays, of course, mean less money flowing through the economy. None of this is to say Owen, Leahey or their colleagues are forecasting doom. They just think it’s too early to throw a party.

There are also economists who are more optimistic.

“There are some little signs that we look to that say maybe it’s not as grim as people fear,” says Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. Chief Economist for Standard & Poor’s.

She says a number of key data she watches gives her confidence that wages will rise.

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