Apr 15, 2021 - Economy

U.S. retail sales jumped nearly 10% in March

Shoppers wearing protective masks carry bags cross a street

Shoppers in San Francisco. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retail sales in the U.S. surged 9.8% in March as shoppers increased spending across several categories, including in-store shopping, restaurant dining and online purchases, the Census Bureau revealed in a new report Thursday.

Why it matters: It was the biggest monthly boost in retail spending since May 2020 — bouncing back from a dip in February — helped by the latest round of stimulus checks, the ramped-up vaccination effort and the economic reopening.

Details: Retail sales were up 27.7% from March 2020, while motor vehicle and parts dealers saw a 71.1% surge from this time last year.

  • Sales at restaurants and bars were also up 36% higher than last year.
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: “There were a lot of positive forces for consumers in March,” Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America, told the Wall Street Journal.

  • "The reopening progressed throughout March, with more and more states easing restrictions, more and more people becoming vaccinated and feeling comfortable re-engaging in the economy and activities that they did previously," she added.

Of note: New applications for state unemployment insurance — one proxy for layoffs — fell last week to the lowest level (roughly 613,000, not adjusted for seasonality) since the onset of the pandemic, a separate Labor Department report today showed.

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