Retail sales rebounded in May in the largest monthly jump on record as U.S. shoppers took advantage of many states lifting business closures and stay at home orders put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Retail sales jumped a record 17.7 percent from April to May, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, blowing past the 8 percent expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones. In April, as coronavirus cases grew in many states and lockdown orders forced businesses across the country to shutter, retail sales were down 14.7 percent, having dropped 8.3 percent the previous month when the economy began shutting down.
Nevertheless, retail sales are still down 9 percent from before the pandemic began, amounting to $485.5 billion, down from $527.3 billion in February. Sales were also down 6.1 percent in May compared to a year ago.
Clothing and accessories stores saw the biggest jump in sales of 188 percent while sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores saw sales tick up 88.2 percent. Restaurants and bars saw a 29.1 percent increase in sales after social distancing restrictions forced most to close down almost completely.
President Trump celebrated the sales boom in a tweet Tuesday, saying the increase was “far bigger than projected.”
“Looks like a BIG DAY FOR THE STOCK MARKET, AND JOBS!” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the job market has also shown signs of recovery as employers added 2.5 million jobs in May. More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since businesses began laying off employees during the lockdowns.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned a Senate panel Tuesday that the economy may still have a long road to recovery despite early signs of improvement. The federal government gave the economy a boost in April when Congress passed several coronavirus stimulus measures, giving one-time $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals and providing forgivable loans to companies.