• Thomas Parker

Retail sales surge while jobless claims remain high

U.S. retail sales jumped 17.7% in May from the previous month, but weekly jobless claims continue to total over a million as unemployment remains high.

Retail sales beat expectations of an 8% increase in May, easily topping a record 6.7% increase from October 2001, which was one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While it was easy to rebound from a massively down month of April for retail sales, the 17.7% gain was still significant and erased much of the previous month's decline in sales.

According to the government figures, clothing and accessory stores reported the largest gain at 188%, while sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments, and book stores rose 88.2%. Following a collapse due to the pandemic, food services and drinking establishments saw a 29.1% rebound in May.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, which popped by 44.1%, May’s gain came in at 12.4%, which also is the best on record going back to 1967.

Despite the rebound in retail sales, many Americans are still out of work. Weekly jobless claims stayed above 1 million for the 13th consecutive week as the virus continues to hinder the job market.

First-time claims came in at 1.5 million last week, above the 1.3 million expected by economists. The elevated weekly claims figures are persisting despite seeing nonfarm payrolls increase by 2.5 million in May.

The good news is that continuing claims--those who have been receiving unemployment benefits for at least two weeks--dipped to 20.5 million, a decline of 62,000 from the previous week.

The total number of Americans receiving assistance under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program increased by 760,526 to 29.1 million as of May 30.

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