COVID-19

Retail sales soar 17.7% in May, although they’re still down compared to last year

Marielle Segarra Jun 16, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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With lockdowns lifting, economists expected May retail sales to jump. But not by this much. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
COVID-19

Retail sales soar 17.7% in May, although they’re still down compared to last year

Marielle Segarra Jun 16, 2020
With lockdowns lifting, economists expected May retail sales to jump. But not by this much. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Retail sales jumped by nearly 18% in May, more than double the forecasts. The numbers give us an idea of how much the economy is bouncing back since states started lifting their lockdowns.

Eighteen percent is a huge jump. Economists were expecting sales to increase in May because that’s when states started to lift their lockdowns, but the projections were 8%.

If you dig into the numbers, clothing sales in May jumped by 188%. The context here: They’re still down compared to May of last year. For clothing sales, they’re down by 63%. Overall, retail sales are down by 6%, so consumer spending is still recovering.

But these are good numbers. Keep in mind, coronavirus cases are also growing in many states in part because people are going out. So there could be new lockdowns at some point.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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