United States retail sales surge 17.7% in May as shops reopen

Marco Green
June 16, 2020

The Commerce Department on today that said overall retail receipts rose 17.7% last month after falling by a record 14.7% in April.

While certainly an eye-catching bounce, it would retrace only about a quarter of the sales drop registered in the record back-to-back declines in the two previous months when widespread stay-at-home orders were imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The result - the biggest monthly jump in consumer spending ever - is a big upside surprise, much better than the 8% jump that economists expected.

The bounce smashed the previous record rise of 6.7pc in October 2001, when Americans resumed spending after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Retail sales alone powered 16.8% higher from a month ago, more than double the estimate of 8% from Dow Jones and reversing a 16.4% plunge from a month ago.

But last month's sales were still down about 6.1 percent compared to May 2019 and about 8 percent lower than the $527 billion recorded in February, before the coronavirus upended the USA economy.

Employment fell by about 22 million in March and April, but payrolls rose unexpectedly in May by just over 2.5 million, supporting the thesis that consumer spending may be recovering and that the worst of the downturn may have passed.

U.S. retail sales roared back from record losses last month as states eased coronavirus lockdowns and stores reopened, new data show.

The likely sales rebound was probably led by strong auto sales as the relaxing of lockdowns across the country allowed vehicle dealership showrooms to reopen.

Excluding autos and gas station purchases, retail sales were up 12.4 percent, also a record increase. Most categories bounced back after taking blows in March and April, when businesses were forced to close. That, too, would be the largest increase since the government began tracking it in 1992.

Retail sales jumped higher in May as consumers returned to stores as coronavirus lockdowns were lifted across the United States.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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