If you’re keeping a close eye on the U.S. economy—and who isn’t, these days?—you probably noticed yesterday’s news that retail sales increased in August for the second month in a row. But you may not have noticed that Wolfram|Alpha is now picking up these Department of Commerce reports as soon as they are released, and allows you to explore and compute U.S. retail sales data so you can better understand these trends.

Try simply asking Wolfram|Alpha about “U.S. retail sales” and you’ll see the latest monthly figure, along with automatic computations of that number as a per capita value and as a fraction of total U.S. GDP, as well as the annual growth rate for overall retail sales. To filter out the seasonal variation in many sales categories, you can also ask for “seasonally adjusted retail sales“—which more clearly shows the retail sector’s dramatic plunge in late 2008.
Adjusted U.S. retail sales as of August 2010

You can also explore trends in individual retail categories (click “More” in the “Retail sales categories” pod for a detailed list), such as clothing stores or electronic shopping and mail order houses.

Or you can mash up this retail sales data with other economic data in Wolfram|Alpha. Try comparing retail sales at building-supply dealers with housing starts, for example, or retail sales at jewelry stores compared with civilian unemployment. (Note that advance figures for August aren’t available for all individual retail categories, so Wolfram|Alpha will default to the latest available values.)

Comparing the seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales of jewelry stores with U.S. unemployments

You can also explore and share this data with easy-to-create custom Wolfram|Alpha Widgets.

We’re continually working to add more timely and relevant economic data to Wolfram|Alpha, and as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

1 Comment

Now there’s an easy way to collect trends when they happen, great tool!
Any other retail categories coming soon?

Posted by trancoso September 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm Reply
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