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National Restaurant Association - Restaurant sales continue to trend higher

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Restaurant sales continue to trend higher

Fueled by an improving economy and falling gas prices, restaurant sales continued to trend higher in January.  Looking ahead, the underlying fundamentals of steady job growth and dampened gas prices should continue to boost confidence and help consumers break free from their recession mindset in 2015, according to the NRA’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy.  His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.

Fueled by an improving economy and falling gas prices, restaurant sales continued to trend higher in January. According to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, eating and drinking place sales totaled $50.5 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in January, the ninth consecutive monthly gain and strongest volume on record.

The recent acceleration in restaurant sales coincided with an improvement in the U.S. labor market and a sharp decline in gas prices – both of which positively impact consumers’ cash-on-hand position. 

Most significantly, the economy added over 3.2 million jobs during the last 12 months, which helped drive the unemployment rate down by a full percentage point. During the last three months alone, the economy added more than 1 million jobs, which represented the strongest three-month performance in more than 17 years.

Meanwhile, gas prices plunged $1.66 a gallon between the end of June and the end of January, which was the equivalent of a multi-billion dollar tax cut for consumers.  The result was an additional $3.2 billion spent in restaurants in January as compared to June (on a seasonally-adjusted basis), an increase of nearly 7 percent. 

To be sure, while the recent trends are certainly positive, the overall psyche of the American consumer remains fragile.  However, the underlying fundamentals of steady job growth and dampened gas prices should continue to boost confidence and help consumers break free from their recession mindset in 2015.

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