US retail sales tick higher for a fourth straight month

Business | 16 Sep 2020 10:55 pm

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

Retail sales increased by 0.6 percent last month, the fourth consecutive month of growth, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday, but lower than the 0.9 percent increase in July. It is also below the 1.1 percent 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 grew by 4.7 percent at those places, but are still down by 15.4 percent for the year.

Clothing sales, grew by nearly 3 percent in August after a 20 percent 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 percent 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.-AP

 

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