Retail Sales Climb in May, U.S. Census Bureau Reports

By Staff
Wednesday, June 19, 2024 11:33 AM Retail sales continue to rise, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. These figures prompted the National Retail Federation to predict further economic expansion as inflation pressure wanes. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, overall retail sales were up 0.1 percent in May, seasonally adjusted month-over-month and up 2.3 percent unadjusted year over year. In April, retail sales fell 0.2 percent month-over-month, however, this represented an increase of 2.7 percent year over year in April.

May’s core retail sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, were up 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted month over month and up 2.9 percent unadjusted year over year. This is excluding automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants. Meanwhile, core retail sales were up 3.5 percent year over year for the first five months of the year.

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May 2024, were $703 billion, up 0.1 percent from the previous month, and up 2.3 percent compared with May 2023, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price change, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

Total sales for the March 2024 through May 2024 period were up 2.9 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report. Meanwhile, the March 2024 to April 2024 percent change was revised from virtually unchanged to down to 0.2 percent.

High Temperatures to Push Electricity Prices Upward, Energy Information Administration Reports

By Staff
Tuesday, June 18, 2024 2:19 PM Americans can expect to spend more on electricity this summer, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency is predicting that the average monthly electricity bill will hit $173 between June and August, up from $168 in 2023. Higher summer temperatures are expected to send prices upward this summer, however, lower overall residential electricity prices should keep rates in check. 

According to the EIA, most regions consume 90 percent of their electricity in the summer due to air conditioner usage. Areas such as the Gulf Coast have some of the highest consumption rates, while the Pacific Coast and New England see more moderate usage. 

EIA experts believe residential customers in Pacific Coast states will likely see the biggest increase in electricity prices, by as much as 7 percent. This is due to an increase in the region’s retail price, which is expected to reach 25 cents/kWh, the second highest in the nation.

Meanwhile, residential customers in New England will see lower electricity prices this summer, falling by 7 percent with an average electricity price of 26 cents/kWh.

Residential electricity customers in the Middle Atlantic states including New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania will see the largest increase in typical summer bills by as much as $14 per month due to increased electricity use and higher electricity prices.

The Pacific region is predicted to rise an average of $11 per month this summer because of higher prices and similar levels of electricity consumption.

Gas Prices Fall as Consumer Demand Wanes, AAA Reports

By Staff
Monday, June 17, 2024 2:44 PM Gas prices continue to fall despite rising temperatures, according to a new report from AAA that revealed the national average for a gallon of gasoline has slipped two cents to $3.46 in less than a week. The auto multi-service provider stated that the main reason behind the fall is slow demand and an influx in supply. 

“Gasoline demand has trailed 2023 for most of this year, and analysts believe economic uncertainty may suppress demand this summer,” said Andrew Gross, manager of AAA public relations.

Recent data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), finds gas demand rose slightly from 8.94 million barrels per day to 9.04 last week. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks jumped from 230.9 million to 233.5 million barrels as production averaged 10.1 million barrels per day. 

Experts at AAA believe a continued drop in demand paired with increasing supply and stable oil costs will likely lead to falling pump prices. Earlier this month, VMAIL reported that gas prices were also on the decline despite a high-risk hurricane season. 

Since June 6, 10 states have seen significant changes in gas prices. Gas prices in Ohio rose 17 cents, and prices in California, Nevada and Alaska fell 10 cents. Michigan and Indiana saw an increase of 9 cents. Illinois fell 9 cents, while Florida dropped 8 cents and Washington and Utah each fell 7 cents. Overall, the least expensive market to purchase gas is Mississippi at $2.93.

As of June 12, WTI (West Texas Intermediate oil is another benchmark used by oil market) rose by 60 cents to $78.50 a barrel. U.S. crude oil inventories sit at 4 percent below the five-year average for this time of year.

Convenience Store Profits Skyrocket in 2023, NACS Reports

By Staff
Friday, June 14, 2024 12:00 PM U.S. convenience stores saw record profits in 2023, according to a new report from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Sales reached more than $859 billion in 2023, of which $327 billion were from in-store sales. The report stated that average shopping basket sales rose 3.7 percent to $7.80. 

Total industry food service sales including, prepared food; commissary; and hot, cold and frozen dispensed beverages, totaled nearly 30 percent of in-store sales, up 1.3 percent compared with 2022. Profits from food services sales reached just over 37 percent of total in-store profits. 

NACS believes a greater acceptance of convenience store food and beverages has helped push sales higher in 2023. The convenience store industry saw an increase of 1.5 percent in brick-and-mortar locations, averaging just over 152,300 stores.

Inflation and other economic pressures hindered sales growth in 2023, with direct operating expenses increasing 3.3 percent to $150 billion, while wages and benefits reached more than $84 billion. 

Despite positive sales growth, direct store operating expenses climbed 3.3 percent to $150.1 billion in 2023, with wages and benefits representing the largest operating cost at $84.2 billion.

Average wages for full-time employees increased 30 cents to $14.73 per hour, while part-time employees earned an average of $13.86 per hour. Overall, the convenience store industry employed more than 2.7 million people across the United States in 2023.

Summer Travel Remains on Par With 2023, Deloitte Report Finds

By Staff
Thursday, June 13, 2024 4:45 PM Higher prices are not putting a damper on summer travel plans, according to new data from the Deloitte 2024 Summer Travel Survey. The survey revealed that 48 percent of Americans plan to travel and stay in paid lodging this summer. This is on par with last year's numbers, however, respondents added that they are planning to take fewer vacations overall. 

Respondents said they expect summer travel costs to increase, with 1 in 5 saying they planned on spending significantly more than last year. 

Air travel is the most popular travel method, with 52 percent of respondents saying they were going to fly this year, compared with 22 percent who said they were reaching their destination by car. 

For many respondents, remote work options are making it easier to make travel plans, with 21 percent reporting they plan on working during their trip. 

The average number of trips taken this summer is expected to reach 2.3, down slightly from 3.1 trips in 2023. Travelers who feel they are doing well financially will spend an average of $528 more, compared to those who feel their economic situation has changed. These travelers are expected to spend an average of $855 less than in previous years. 

Meanwhile, more than a third of non-travelers are planning to stay home due to the current cost of travel, up 8 percent from 2023.

NOAA Predicts Active Summer Hurricane Season for the Atlantic

By Staff
Wednesday, June 12, 2024 3:49 PM Forecasters at the NOAA National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center are warning that there may be above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin this year. NOAA issued the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season outlook this week, which predicts an 85 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 10 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season.

NOAA predicts 17 to 25 total named storms this season, of which 8 to 13 are forecast to become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher. Of these, NOAA predicts 4 to 7 major hurricanes will be category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

Record warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, the development of La Niña conditions in the Pacific and reduced Atlantic trade winds and less wind shear, are expected to increase the overall risk of tropical storm formation.

NOAA experts also predict an above-normal West African monsoon season, which can produce African easterly waves that “seed some of the strongest and longer-lived Atlantic storms.”

Climate change is also playing a major role in the development of more severe hurricanes, according to NOAA. Warming oceans globally and in the Atlantic basin paired with melting ice on land is leading to a rise in sea levels, which increases the risk of storm surges. 

NOAA stated that sea level rise represents a clear human influence on the damage potential from a given hurricane.

Global Inbound Cargo Continues Its Upward Trend, NRF Reports

By Staff
Tuesday, June 11, 2024 1:53 PM Global inbound is predicted to reach a two-year high by the summer, according to new data from the Global Port Tracker released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. The data shows that in April, U.S. ports handled 2.02 million TEU. A TEU is the equivalent of one 20-foot container. 

In May, VMAIL reported that the NRF was confident that inbound cargo, domestically was trending upward. 

The Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for U.S. ports. Recent data shows inbound cargo moving in a positive direction, climbing 4.6 percent from March and up 13.2 percent year-over-year.

The Global Port Tracker projected that volume would rise by 2.09 million TEU in May, up 8.3 percent year-over-year, for the highest level since 2.26 million in August 2022. June numbers are expected to climb higher, reaching 2.11 million TEU, up 15.2 percent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, July is forecast to reach 2.1 million TEU, up 9.5 percent; while August is slated to hit 2.17 million TEU, up 10.6 percent. The Global Port Tracker predicts this rise will taper off slightly in September falling to 2.06 million TEU, but will still be up 1.7 percent, and October will fall to 2.01 percent, down 2.3 percent from the same month last year.

Private Sector Employment Increased in May, ADP Report Reveals

By Staff
Monday, June 10, 2024 1:41 PM The number of private sector employees rose in May, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report. The report’s findings revealed that more than 152,000 private sector jobs were added in May, up 5 percent compared with the same period in 2023. 

The ADP National Employment Report is an independent measure and high-frequency view of the private-sector labor market based on actual, anonymized payroll data of more than 25 million U.S. employees. It was produced in collaboration with Stanford Digital Economy Lab and details the current month’s total private employment change and weekly job data from the previous month. 

Gains were seen in several sectors, with the biggest rise in the construction industry. Increases also occurred in the trade/transportation/utilities industry and health care. Manufacturing, meanwhile, saw a decrease of more than 20,000 jobs. 

Year-over-year pay gains for job changers fell for the second month. Pay for job-changers was up 7.8 percent, while pay growth for job-stayers held steady for the third month at 5 percent.

The biggest rise in annual pay for job-stayers was in the health and leisure/hospitality fields, which saw increases of 5.5 percent.

Interest in Electric Vehicles Declines in 2024, AAA Reports

By Staff
Friday, June 7, 2024 2:39 PM Interest in Electric Vehicles (EVs) has fallen, according to a new survey from the Automobile Association of America (AAA). New data shows that only 18 percent of U.S. adults would consider themselves “very likely” or “likely” to buy a new or used EV, down from 23 percent in 2023. 

Sixty-three percent of respondents reported that they are “unlikely or very unlikely” to purchase an EV for their next car purchase. 

Experts at AAA said one of the main reasons for the drop in interest in EVs was the lack of convenient charging options, coupled with anxiety about how long an electric charge may last. Many respondents said they also found the vehicles' cost prohibitive, while 30 percent also cited the inability to install a charging station where they live. 

AAA stated that for people who live in an apartment or condo, at-home charging options are likely not possible. The organization added that an EV might be a great choice for households with more than two cars, but it might not fit the consumer who has to rely on their car for everyday use and travel. 

The organization believes hybrid options could bridge these gaps, broadening consumer interest in owning an EV. 

The survey found 31 percent of respondents said they would be “very likely” or “likely” to buy a hybrid, due to fewer anxieties about how long an electric charge might last and the potential disruption to lifestyle and travel plans.

More Americans Are Living Alone, U.S. Census Report Finds

By Staff
Thursday, June 6, 2024 2:18 PM More Americans are finding themselves living alone, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau which revealed that 1 in 10 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 were living alone in 2022. The report found that of those living together, nearly 43 percent of women and 34 percent of men in this age cohort lived with a spouse. 

Meanwhile, 17 percent of men and women lived with an unmarried partner in 2022 while 47 percent of U.S. households were married-couple households, down from 71 percent in 1970.

More than half of adult men and women in that age group lived in a parental home. This figure includes college dorms. In 1960, 52 percent of 18- to 24-year-old men were living in their parents’ home, compared to 57 percent in 2024. Meanwhile, in 1960, 35 percent of women still lived at home compared with 55 percent today.  

The report found that family dynamics continue to shift as new living trends emerge. In 2022, less than two-thirds of all family groups with children under age 18 were maintained by married parents.

Approximately 74 percent of mothers and 91 percent of fathers with a child in the household were also living with their child’s other parent in 2022.

Consumer Spending Remains Strong, NRF Report Finds

By Staff
Wednesday, June 5, 2024 10:47 AM Despite economic pressures, consumers are still showing a willingness to spend. A new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) points to continued consumer confidence in the face of high interest rates and slow wage gains. 

New data from the NRF’s June Monthly Economic Report, shows gross domestic product is predicted to grow 2.3 percent above 2023 rates. Employment is also trending upward with an expected 180,000 jobs a month, 50,000 more than originally forecast, the report said.  

“U.S. economic growth for the remainder of this year will depend on several factors, but particularly the pace of job growth, inflation and what actions will be taken by the Federal Reserve,” said Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist.

Inflation, as measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, is expected to fall by 2.2 percent by the end of the year, close to the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.

Core retail sales were up 3.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year for the first four months of the year, in line with NRF’s forecast for 2024 retail sales to grow between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent over 2023.

Spending for Father's Day Remains Strong, NRF Survey Finds

By Staff
Tuesday, June 4, 2024 4:13 PM Consumers will spend billions this year in honor of Father’s Day. A new survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics finds that Father’s Day spending is predicted to reach $22.4 billion this year, down slightly compared with nearly $23 billion last year. 

The survey found that 26 percent of consumers are purchasing a gift for a husband, while 10 percent will purchase a gift for a son and 8 percent for a brother. 

The most popular purchase will be greeting cards, with 58 percent of respondents saying they planned to purchase one. Approximately 54 percent of respondents said they were purchasing clothing, and 52 percent said they were taking Dad on a special outing. Gift cards and personal care items rounded out the responses at 48 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

More than a quarter of respondents said they planned on giving an experience, such as tickets to a sporting event or concert. Meanwhile, 42 percent of consumers said they were interested in gifting a product subscription box, up from 34 percent in 2019 when the NRF first started asking this question. 

Online shopping remains the most popular way to purchase gifts for Father's Day, with 42 percent of respondents saying this was their preferred mode of gift buying. Department stores were the second most popular choice at 38 percent, followed by discount stores at 24 percent and specialty stores at 22 percent. Approximately 19 percent said they would shop through local or small businesses, the survey said.

Gas Prices in the U.S. Take a Dip as Hurricane Season Approaches

By Staff
Tuesday, June 4, 2024 12:00 AM A looming hurricane season has triggered a dip in gas prices, according to a new report from AAA which noted that the national average for a gallon of gasoline has fallen by five cents in the last week to $3.56. This is the largest one-week drop in 2024. AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said the primary reasons for the drop are tepid demand and lower oil prices.

“Gas prices will likely keep up this slow sag now that we are past the Memorial Day travel weekend and more locations, east of the Rockies, will be selling gas below $3 a gallon,” said Gross.

Gross pointed to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) which shows gas demand fell in late May from 9.31 barrels per day to 9.14 barrels per day while total domestic gasoline stocks rose from 226.8 million barrels of oil to 228.8 million barrels of oil.

Prices will continue to decrease, he said, if supply increases and oil costs continue to fall. As of the end of May, the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.55, approximately nine cents less than a month ago and a penny less than a year ago.

The least expensive markets for gas in the United States are Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, while the most expensive markets are California where gas has risen to more than $5 a gallon followed by Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.

Globally, the price of a barrel (WTI) is approximately $77.53 with the EIA reporting that crude oil inventories decreased by 4.2 million barrels from mid-May. Meanwhile, there are approximately 454.7 million barrels of U.S. crude oil inventories, 4 percent below the five-year average for this time of year.

More Travelers Are Using Generative AI to Plan Trips, Oliver Wyman Report Finds

By Staff
Friday, May 31, 2024 12:00 PM Generative AI is transforming the way people travel. A new report from Oliver Wyman titled, Why Generative AI Is a Game Changer for Leisure Travel,  shows that AI is gaining momentum among the leisure travel industry with more travelers using it to help plan their vacations.

The report highlights the way AI is changing travel habits. In the survey, 41 percent of Americans and Canadians reported they now use generative AI for trip inspiration or planning, up from 34 percent in 2023.

The report found that companies that offer online travel services could use the technology to increase their bookings by 17 percent by 2029. This is the equivalent of more than $2 billion in commissions from travel suppliers.

AI tools have already been receiving a positive response from users, with 75 percent of respondents saying they are happy with the travel recommendations provided by generative AI tools, demonstrated by high conversion rates for booking the AI-suggested trip option.

Many travelers are also using AI to help enhance their trips. More than 90 percent of respondents said they used generative AI to add specific activities and dining suggestions to their trips.

The survey also found that loyalty members were more likely to use AI to plan trips, with 45 percent reporting they were already doing so.

According to the survey, one of the most popular ways to use AI when traveling is for planning a cruise, with 54 percent saying they had used the tools in the last two years to plan their holiday.

Puerto Rico’s Foreign-Born Population Is on the Decline, U.S. Census Bureau Reports

By Staff
Wednesday, May 29, 2024 12:03 PM Puerto Rico’s foreign-born population fell below 100,000 between 2018 and 2022, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report, titled American Community Survey (ACS), includes five-year estimates that show a steep decline over the past decade. Additionally, Puerto Rico’s foreign-born population fell from 104,497 in 2008-2012 to 89,461 a decade later.

According to the Census Bureau, a foreign-born person is anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth, including citizens through naturalization, permanent residents, temporary migrants, humanitarian migrants and unauthorized refugees. 

The study found that the population decline was consistent with Puerto Rico’s recent population decline, which saw a drop from 3.7 million compared with 3.3 million between 2008-2012 and 2018-2022. 

More than 55 percent of immigrants in Puerto Rico in the labor force were over the age of 16, however, the number of native-born people in the workforce was 44 percent. The number of foreign-born people looking for work or out of work rose between 2018-2022 to 44 percent, up from 36 percent between 2008 and 2012. 

Overall, the median age of the foreign-born population increased to 53.9, making the foreign-born population older than the native-born population where the median age is 43. 

Experts at the Census Bureau believe this is the result of falling birth rates and an increase in natural disasters. It’s also believed that many migrants who left for the United States did not return due to poor labor conditions back home and better prospects in their new location.