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US Retail Sales Rose in May, but Department Stores Still Struggled

Americans are shopping for apparel again.

Clothing, accessories and sporting goods stores all saw their sales rise in May, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, as U.S. consumers loosened the purse strings a little after months of penny-pinching.

Retail sales were $455.6 billion, up 0.5% from April’s figure (when sales increased 1.3% over March), and a 2.5% increase over May 2015, beating economists’ forecast of 0.3% month-to-month. Breaking down that number, retail trade sales were up 0.4% from April and up 2 percent from last year, while e-commerce rose 1.3% over the prior month and 12.2% from May 2015.

Despite the demise of Sports Authority, sporting goods stores had a successful month, with sales up 1.3% since April and 5.2% since last May.

It wasn’t all good news, however. Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 0.8% on a month-to-month basis, the biggest advance since November, but were down 0.5% from last May. In addition, department stores saw sales decline 0.9% over April to record a massive 5.8% drop year-over-year.

The news followed an earlier announcement that only 38,000 nonfarm jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May, which raised questions about whether or not the Federal Reserve would decide to raise short-term interest rates at this month’s meeting. Tuesday’s strong spending report means that idea could be back on the table.