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Customers wear face masks while waiting in line to shop inside a Best Buy store on Black Friday in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, biggest drop in 7 months

Associated Press Dec 16, 2020
Customers wear face masks while waiting in line to shop inside a Best Buy store on Black Friday in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, the biggest drop in seven months, and a sign Americans held back on spending during the start of the holiday shopping season.

The U.S. Commerce Department also revised October’s number, saying on Wednesday that retail sales actually fell 0.1% that month, instead of rising 0.3% as it previously reported.

Americans have cut back on spending after losing a $600 weekly boost to unemployment checks that expired over the summer. A surge in coronavirus infections nationwide is also keeping Americans from spending.

Shoppers mostly stayed home on Black Friday, which is typically the busiest day of the holiday shopping season. Crowds at malls and stores were thin after health officials warned people not to shop in person. Retailers followed suit by putting their best deals online. Half as many people shopped inside stores this Black Friday than last year, according to retail data company Sensormatic Solutions.

The Commerce Department said the biggest drop in sales was at department stores, down 7.7% last month. Sales also fell at clothing and electronic stores.

Wednesday’s report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays, which have been badly hurt by the pandemic, are not included.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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