There’s More to the Economy Than Walmart

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Early last month, the blogging world was transfixed by a leaked set of emails from a Walmart executive complaining that the first week of sales in February was terrible. “February MTD sales are a total disaster,” said Jerry Murray, Walmart’s vice president of finance and logistics. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

I didn’t bother reporting this when I first heard it, and I didn’t bother a second time when it started making the rounds of the blogosphere. It was one week of sales! Turns out this was a good call:

Retail and food-service sales increased 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted $421.4 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, marking the fourth straight monthly gain and biggest rise since September. The figure was up 4.6% from a year ago….Retail sales excluding gasoline, automobiles and building materials—a figure watched closely by economists who use it as a truer gauge of consumer behavior—was up 0.36% in February, the Commerce Department said.

The number for general merchandise stores like Walmart wasn’t great, but it wasn’t disastrous either. Overall, consumer spending was fairly strong last month, it just wasn’t being directed Walmart’s way.

The lesson is simple. It’s silly to get too exercised about a single month’s economic data. It’s really silly to get too exercised about a single week’s economic data. And it’s silly beyond belief to get too exercised about a single week’s economic data at a single store, even if it is Walmart. Live and learn.

BY THE WAY: The company refers to itself these days as Walmart, not Wal-Mart. Copy desks everywhere take note.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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