Retail sales climb an annual 2 percent in November

Employment in the sector continues to shrink despite the recovery

The Boquería market in Barcelona
The Boquería market in BarcelonaEFE

Retail sales picked up again in November after falling the previous month, reinforcing the idea that the Spanish economy is on the road to a recovery, albeit a timid one.

According to figures released Monday by the National Statistics Institute (INE), purchases by consumers at all retail outlets increased 2.0 percent in the penultimate month of the year from a year earlier. Sales increased for the first time in three years in September, when they were up 2.1 percent. However, that reflected the fact that sales were particularly weak in September 2012, when the government raised value-add tax rates.

Eliminating the impact of seasonal factors and differences in the number of working days, sales in November were up an annual 1.9 percent.

There was a pick-up in sales in all types of outlets last month, with the exception of service stations where they fell 4.6 percent from a year earlier. The biggest improvements were seen at large stores and chains, where purchases climbed by over 5 percent. Sales at small chains were up 2.7 percent and rose by 0.5 percent at small stores. Excluding service stations, sales were up an annual 2.8 percent.

Food purchases climbed by only 0.3 percent, while purchases of personal equipment and household appliances rose 6.5 and 3.0 percent, respectively.

The improvement in sales was not accompanied by a pick-up in employment in the sector, with the number of people employed down 1.5 percent from a year earlier. Employment has now fallen 26 months in a row. However, the arrival of the Christmas season was evident in the case of large chains and large stores, where employment increased 0.7 and 1.5 percent respectively.

Employment declined in 14 out of Spain’s 17 regions, with the biggest falls seen in Castilla y León (3.3 percent), Madrid (2.8 percent), Galicia (2.5 percent) and Andalusia (2.2 percent).

Spain pulled out of an extended recession in the third quarter of this year, when GDP rose 0.1 percent on a quarterly basis but declined an annual 1.1 percent.

“In the end, [this increase in sales] is another positive signal, which in itself is not enough to qualify as a trend, nor sufficient to reduce debt and unemployment in Spain,” Reuters quoted brokerage Renta 4 strategist, Natalia Aguirre, as saying.

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