U.S. retail sales rose in May for the first time since January, according to a government report showing results which represent the ‘complete universe’ of over three million retail and food services firms nationwide.

Four 2009 Ford Focus vehicles sit with a 'Sale' sign under 
their hoods at a Ford dealership in Royal Oak, Michigan 
March 19, 2009. U.S. auto sales fell nearly 40 percent 
in the first two months of the year to their lowest level 
in 27 years. Picture taken March 19, 2009. Reuters/Rebecca Cook 
U.S. retail and food services sales in May rose 0.5 percent from the previous month, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Censur Bureau reported on Wednesday.

Compared with a year ago, the results were 9.6 percent below the same month last year.

The report also revised its March to April 2009 figures to show a smaller decline in sales than previously reported, from -0.4 percent to -0.2 percent.

Retail trade sales rose 0.5 percent from April 2009, but were down 10.8 percent below last year. Gasoline station sales were down 33.8 percent from May 2008 while motor vehicle and parts dealers sales fell 19.6 percent from last year.

The report uses random sampling to select about 5,000 retail and food services firms whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the “complete universe” of over three million retail and food services firms.

In the past twelve months retail sales have only increased from the previous month three times, according to preliminary non-adjusted figures.