On the 5th of February, the National Retail Federation (NRF) released a 2019 forecast that predicted retail sales will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent, to more than $3.8 trillion.
Should the forecast become a reality, 2019’s retail growth would mark a slowdown from 2018’s rate—retail sales grew 4.6 percent in 2018 over 2017, to $3.68 trillion. Last year’s figures include a debatable margin of error, since the Department of Commerce was closed during the shutdown and hasn’t yet released December retail sales figures.
The NRF expects the economy to gain an average of 170,000 jobs per month in 2019, down from 220,000 in 2018, and that unemployment, which is currently at 4 percent, will fall to 3.5 percent by the end of the year.
NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in an NRF statement, “We are not seeing any deterioration in the financial health of the consumer. Consumers are in better shape than at any time in the last few years.”
Factors that could negatively impact the retail sector in 2019 include the new tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other goods from China that the U.S. imposed last year. On March 1, the government is scheduled to hike tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent.