BALTIMORE (AP) — American shoppers ramped up their spending on store purchases by a record 17.7% from April to May, delivering a dose of energy for retailers that have been reeling since the coronavirus shut down businesses, flattened the economy and paralyzed consumers during the previous two months.
The government’s report Tuesday showed that consumers’ retail purchases have retraced some of the record-setting month-to-month plunges of March (8.3%) and April (14.7%) as businesses have increasingly reopened. Still, the pandemic’s damage to retailers remains severe, with purchases still down 6.1% from a year ago.
Last month’s bounce-back by consumers comes against the backdrop of an economy that may have begun what could be a slow and prolonged recovery. In May, employers added 2.5 million jobs, an unexpected rise that suggested that the job market has bottomed out. Still, a big unknown is whether early gains in job growth, retail sales and other areas can be sustained in the coming months or whether they may plateau at a low level.