Coronavirus BRIEFING

June Retail Sales Increase But Economic Recovery May Be Hindered by Resurgence of Virus

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WASHINGTON—Retail sales rose in June, seeing both a monthly increase and their first year-over-year gain since early in the year as more retailers and other businesses closed by the coronavirus pandemic reopened, but continued COVID-19 outbreaks remain a threat, the National Retail Federation said on Thursday.

The U.S. Census Bureau said today that overall retail sales during June were up 7.5 percent seasonally adjusted from May and up 1.1 percent year-over-year. That follows an 18.2 percent month-over-month increase in May and marks the first time government retail sales numbers have seen a year-over-year gain since February. Retail sales have been climbing back upward after a record 14.7 percent drop in April, the first full month that most stores were closed.

“June’s numbers show that retail spending is fueling the economic recovery,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “How durable the improvement in retail spending will be is directly related to how widespread the resurgence in COVID-19 cases becomes. All eyes are on the infections that are accelerating in many parts of the country and they pose a serious threat to recovery.”

The NRF said two-thirds of retail categories saw month-over-month gains and just over half saw year-over-year increases. Many of the gains came at retailers that were closed during the pandemic—clothing store sales more than doubled—but some face the prospect of being ordered to close again as the virus returns in some areas around the country.

According to analysis from The New York Times, “The June data followed a May jump that was the largest monthly surge on record, even before it was revised up to 18.2 percent—but that had followed two months of record declines. While overall sales are within 1 percent of where they were in February, that figure masks major shifts that have taken place in what people are buying and whether they are shopping from home.”

Read the full story from the NRF here.