Retail Sales Returned (Almost) to Normal in May

Here’s some pretty good news. Retail sales rebounded very nicely in May:

Retail sales declined by $79 billion between February and April, but recovered 81 percent of that loss in May. This is only a single month, and it’s not evidence of a “v-shaped” recovery—not yet, anyway—but it’s still good to see. With money from both the stimulus checks and the unemployment bonus finally reaching consumers, wallets are opening up.

How much of this rebound was due to e-commerce sales? Unfortunately, that’s tallied quarterly and the next report won’t be available until July. But I expect to see that it played a pretty big role.

Note that the chart above is for all retail sales except food services. The story there, where it’s something you do in person or not at all, is a lot less buoyant:

Restaurant sales plummeted by more than half between February and April, declining from $65 billion to $30 billion. In May they recovered only 26 percent of that loss. Even as restaurants slowly opened up, consumers remained wary of going out to eat.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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