May 17, 2022 - Economy & Business

Retail sales jump as prices soar at fastest pace in 40 years

People shopping in the meat aisle in a grocery store
People shop at a grocery store this month in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Consumers continued to spend in April, with retail sales jumping 0.9% from the prior month, according to government data released on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Shoppers aren't pulling back on spending even as prices soar at the fastest pace in 40 years. This is a good sign for the American economy amid fears of a coming recession as inflation rages.

  • Retail sales rose 8.2% from a year ago, a period when inflation jumped by 8.3%.
  • Stripping out spending on gasoline, retail sales were even stronger, rising 1.3% from the prior month.

Details: Consumers upped spending at restaurants and bars, and spent more on clothing, furniture and cars.

  • Spending on gas fell 2.7% compared to March, when gas prices rose as Russia invaded Ukraine.

The bottom line: Economists are keeping a close eye on consumer spending for signs of how they are grappling with soaring prices. So far, activity remains robust.

What to watch: Walmart, the nation's biggest retailer, says it sees some signs that cash-strapped consumers are adjusting their behavior because of higher prices.

  • CFO Brett Biggs told CNBC on Tuesday that the company is seeing more sales of half-gallons of milk and its private brand of lunch meat. The company expects inflation to continue to crimp its business this year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details from the report.

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