united_states_capitolLOS ANGELES, Feb 13, 2008 / FW/ — With January retail sales rising only 2.0% unadjusted over last year and 0.1% seasonally adjusted from December, the newly signed Economic Stimulus Bill is being welcomed by retailers with the hope that it will boost sagging retail sales.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), last month, consumers were focused on buying necessities more than discretionary items. January retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Helped in part by winter clearance sales and other weather-related purchases, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores increased 1.4% unadjusted year-over-year and 1.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

General merchandise stores sales also increased 3.5% unadjusted year-over-year and 0.1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month. Stores selling home-related merchandise saw the biggest sales declines, with furniture and home furnishing decreasing 4.3% and building materials decreasing 5.8%.

About the same time that these figures were released, President Bush signed H.R. 5140, the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008. The $152 billion measure would provide tax rebate checks of up to $600 per working individual and $1,200 per married couple, plus $300 per child.