Consumers in Alberta pulled back a bit more on their spending to kick off 2016, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.
In January, retail sales in Alberta fell by 0.2 per cent compared to December to $6.13 billion dollars. (The figures are adjusted for seasonality, so any regular pull-back in spending after the Christmas holiday shopping season is taken into account). That was the lowest monthly total for retail activity since August of 2013.
Over the last complete twelve months, total sales are down by 3.6 per cent compared to the previous twelve months. But given the severity of the economic situation and the plunge in other measures of consumer sentiment (such as the consumer confidence levels), the fact that sales are down by only this amount is a bit surprising. Indeed, it could even be considered positive news.
Nationally, the picture was brighter as consumer spending shot up in January. As Statistics Canada states in this morning’s release: “Retail sales rose 2.1 per cent to $44.2 billion in January, led by five subsectors that rebounded from lower sales in December.” At the national level, auto sales and part were the most impressive, rising 4.8 per cent.
For Alberta, the slumping retail sales figure is another discouraging sign of a weakening economy. Sales may dip further yet as 2016 grinds on, but there is hope as well. With crude oil prices rising in the last several days to above $US 40 per barrel, Albertans may start feeling a bit more optimistic in the coming weeks and months.*
*Courtesy of Todd Hirsch • Chief Economist< ATB