March 13, 2014

AP’s Boak Hypes Weak Feb. Retail Sales Growth as ‘Rebound’

February’s retail sales as reported may have been expectations of a 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted rise, but the 0.3 percent increase turned in was still far from impressive, especially after considering that the Census Bureau revised January’s result down to -0.6 percent from an originally reported -0.4 percent.

Naturally, that didn’t stop the Associated Press’s Josh Boak and his story’s headline writer from celebrating the news as a “rebound.” Even more absurdly, Boak claimed that “Last month’s rebound almost brought retail spending back to its December levels.” Excerpts follow the jump:



U.S. retail sales bounced back in February after suffering a steep decline during a bitterly cold January. Shoppers spent more on autos, clothing and furniture.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that seasonally-adjusted retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February. Spending had fallen 0.6 percent in January, revised down from the 0.4 percent decline initially reported. Retail spending also fell 0.3 percent in December.

The increase suggests that consumer spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country.

Auto sales rose 0.3 percent. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, retail sales increased 0.3 percent from December.

Last month’s rebound almost brought retail spending back to its December levels. Purchases at restaurants, online retailers and department stores also improved, although the economy has yet to fully shake off winter’s impact.

Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen a modest 1.5 percent.

For those who are keeping score, retail sales are not adjusted for inflation, which means that their 12-month rise is really no progress in real terms. The latest inflation release had January 2013-2014 inflation at 1.6 percent.

How a 0.3 percent “rebound” (more like a carom) almost makes up for the previous 0.6 percent decline is a complete.

The bureau’s specific numbers more sharply refute Boak’s claim:


Thanks to the reported percentage roundings going the wrong way, February’s 0.265% rise only got back 41 percent of January’s 0.638% decline. That’s like getting to the 11-mile mark in the 26.2 mile marathon, dropping out, and saying, “I almost made it.” No you didn’t.

It’s all in a day’s work with the AP’s always sunny-side-up (when Democrats are in office) business and economics writers.

Cross-posted at


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