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The US Department of Commerce yesterday said that May's retail sales numbers were down 1.3 percent from a month earlier, reflecting a cutback in consumer spending, a shift in consumer priorities, and issues about availability.

The Wall Street Journal writes that the shift was "from big-ticket items to goods and services related to going out amid business reopenings and higher vaccination rates."  At the same time, consumers trimmed "expenditures on autos, furniture, electronics, building materials and other items … People spent more on such items throughout the Covid-19 pandemic but are now pulling back. Supply-chain disruptions and higher prices are also crimping sales of long-lasting goods."

The Journal points out that Americans "are spending more on services, which account for the bulk of economic output but are largely excluded from the retail-sales report. Spending on one service - restaurants and bars - rose 1.8% last month, sending food-service sales beyond pre-pandemic levels … Americans spent more on clothing and health and beauty products in May, categories of goods they had shunned for much of the pandemic but are likely turning to as they go out again. Online sales also dropped, signaling a pivot to more in-person shopping, Tuesday’s Commerce report showed."