x

Economy

Retail Sales Rise for 4th Straight Month as Growth Slows

September 16, 2020

NEW YORK  — Americans kept spending in August, but the pace of that growth is slowing as millions of people who lost jobs have now lost a $600 a week boost in their unemployment checks. 

Retail sales rose 0.6% last month, the fourth consecutive month of growth, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday, but lower than the 0.9% increase in July. It's also below the 1.1% increase analysts expected. 

"These are disappointing numbers," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "And they're probably a hint of what's to come in the wake of the ending of enhanced unemployment benefits"

Much of last month's growth came from spending at restaurants and bars, which are just starting to let people in to eat and drink. Sales rose 4.7% at those places, but are still down 15.4% for the year. 

Overall retail sales have been recovering since they plunged in the spring as stores and malls were ordered closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

A number of those retailers, some of them part of the U.S. retail landscape for more than a century, have failed. Century 21 said last week it's shutting down all 13 of its stores for good after nearly six decades in business. Lord & Taylor, which has been around for nearly 200 years, is also going out of business. Several others major retailers have sought bankruptcy protection, including J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers and J.Crew. 

Clothing sales, however, rose nearly 3% in August after a 20% decline in the last year. 

Retailers that had already pivoted to accommodate a shift to online shopping, like Target and Walmart, have thrived. Sales at Amazon.com have soared. 

Online sales, however, were flat last month, according to the Commerce Department, after soaring 22% in the past year. People also spent less at supermarkets and sporting goods stores in August, after shoppers rushed to them this year to stock up on food and exercise equipment for their quarantines. 

At the end of July, nearly 30 million laid-off workers stopped receiving a $600-a-week federal unemployment check, which economists have said helped sustain spending. The Trump administration has set up a program to provide some of the unemployed with $300 a week.

Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., and is monitored closely by economists gauging the nation's economic health. 

Wednesday's retail sales report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts, movie tickets and hotel stays are not part of the report. All of those businesses have been hammered during the pandemic. 

Also reflected in the numbers released Wednesday is the new reality for many Americans: they're working from home or taking classes online instead of going to school. Sales at electronic stores rose 0.8% as people bought up computers and laptops. And at furniture stores, sales rose 2.1%. 

Ikea, the chain of affordable furniture stores from Sweden, said last week that demand for desks, chairs and filing cabinets has been so high that it's been sold out of numerous items and is working to restock them.

RELATED

MIAMI (AP) — Having fled economic and political chaos in Venezuela, Luisana Silva now loads carpets for a South Carolina rug company.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Indians Vote in the First Phase of the World’s Largest Election as Modi Seeks a Third Term

NEW DELHI (AP) — Millions of Indians began voting Friday in a six-week election that's a referendum on Narendra Modi, the populist prime minister who has championed an assertive brand of Hindu nationalist politics and is seeking a rare third term as the country's leader.

NEW YORK – The iconic Greek singer Haris Alexiou appeared on a billboard at the famous ‘Crossroads of the World,’ Times Square in New York on April 18 as the face of a global campaign for equality in the music industry, Athens Voice reported.

ATHENS - The ballot paper for the upcoming European elections was presented by the leader of SYRIZA - Progressive Alliance Stefanos Kasselakis, on Friday night at the 'Hellenic Cosmos' Cultural Center.

ATHENS - The Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the upgraded port of Sigri in Lesvos as part of his tour of the island on Friday.

ASTORIA – Danae and Hellenic Aesthetic announced the launch of their collaboration ‘Dressing the Table’ on the Hellenic Aesthetic blog on April 17, noting that “the inspiration behind this project is to bring new life into our forgotten family heirlooms, like hand-embroidered tablecloths, so we can enjoy them in a modern way.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.