Money & The Economy

US Retail Sales Increased As States Ended Restrictions

U.S. retail sales jumped in June, boosted by states widely loosening coronavirus restrictions and businesses returning to full capacity.

Retail sales increased 0.6% and totaled $621.3 billion in June, according to the Department of Commerce report released Wednesday. The monthly increase was driven by general merchandise, including food service, clothing, personal care, electronics and gasoline sales, the report showed.

“Sectors that were buoyed by the pandemic are slowing down a little bit, but not to a degree that I’d be concerned about,” Square economist Felipe Chacon told The Wall Street Journal. “Household finances have been bolstered by a few rounds of stimulus spending, so it bodes pretty well.”

While general merchandise saw an uptick in June sales, sectors that dominated throughout the pandemic and in the early months of 2021 fell, according to the Commerce Department. Automobile, furniture and building material sales all dipped last month.

Overall sales increased 1.3% excluding volatile automobile sales, according to the WSJ.

Friday’s report signaled that the economy continues to rebound from its historically poor performance in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Retail sales bottomed out at $403.9 billion in April as the virus quickly spread across the country and government restrictions shut down local economies, CNBC reported at the time.

Since January, though, the U.S. has added more than 3 million jobs and the number of Americans filing for weekly jobless claims continues to hit pandemic lows.

In addition, the economy grew 6.4% in the first three months of the year, according to a revised Commerce Department estimate. The International Monetary Fund said the U.S. economy would grow 7% in 2021 in an updated projection this month, Agence France-Presse reported.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has predicted that total 2021 retail sales would exceed $4.44 trillion.

“The economy and consumer spending have proven to be much more resilient than initially forecasted,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “The combination of vaccine distribution, fiscal stimulus and private-sector ingenuity have put millions of Americans back to work.”

But while retail sales increase and the economy broadly grows, inflation continues to tick up rapidly. Consumer prices surged 5.4% between July 2020 and June, the fastest increase since August 2008.

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