Worse Than a Decade of Stagnation, by Wolf Richter

SLL has long maintained that the economy is in much worse shape than indicated by official statistics. With President Trump taking office, it’s a good bet the numbers will catch up with reality. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Retail sales are held up by only two sectors. The rest are sinking.

There are two components of “retail and food services sales” that have been booming over the past few years through the fourth quarter 2016. And then there’s all the rest combined – 71% of total retail sales – that has been in decline since the third quarter of 2008. That’s the tough reality of retail sales in the US.

First the good news: e-commerce sales

In the fourth quarter, e-commerce sales soared 14.3% from a year earlier, to $123.6 billion, not adjusted for seasonality and price changes, according to the Commerce Department today. E-commerce sales for the entire year 2016 jumped 15.1% year-over-year to $394.9 billion, accounting for 8.1% of total retail and food services sales, up from 7.3% in 2015. You see where this is going.

E-commerce sales include online sales by retailers with brick-and-mortar stores, such as Walmart and Macy’s that are all trying to carve out a presence on the internet, with varying success.

This chart uses seasonally adjusted e-commerce sales to eliminate the very large seasonal fluctuations, including the spike every Q4 and plunge every Q1, but it’s not adjusted for inflation:

While e-commerce soared 14.3% year-over-year in Q4, total retail and food services sales, including e-commerce, rose only 3.9%. In all of 2016, total retail sales edged up only 2.9% from 2015. So what is left over once e-commerce is removed from the equation?

To continue reading: Worse Than a Decade of Stagnation

 

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