US Retail Sales Post Record Resurgence in May

June 16, 2020 Updated: June 16, 2020

U.S. retail sales experienced a record rise in May as 2.5 million Americans went back to work and people began moving about more freely.

The Commerce Department on June 16 said overall retail receipts rose 17.7 percent last month after falling by a record 14.7 percent in April. The gain exceeded the previous record increase of 6.7 percent in October 2001 as Americans resumed spending following what was then a record pullback in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Retail sales had been expected to jump 8.0 percent in May, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

The bounce retraces only a portion 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 CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. In addition to April’s record plunge, sales had tumbled more than 8 percent in March.

Epoch Times Photo
A customer pays for his purchase in the doorway of Dave’s New York, a retail store, as phase one of reopening after lockdown begins, during the outbreak of the CCP virus in New York City on June 8, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The U.S. economy dropped into recession in February as the viral outbreak brought a record-long expansion to an abrupt end. 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.

The sales rebound was helped by strong auto sales as the relaxing of lockdowns across the country allowed car dealership showrooms to reopen. May’s sales rate climbed above 12 million vehicles per year after dropping below 9 million in April, according to Wards Intelligence.

The closely watched “retail control” figure, which further excludes building materials, food services, and gasoline sales as well as setting aside automotive-related sales, rose by a record 11.0 percent, the report showed. Economists had been expecting the figure, which most closely tracks the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, to see a gain of 4.7 percent.

By Lucia Mutikani

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.