May 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

April retail sales drop record 16.4% amid coronavirus pandemic

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

U.S. retail sales fell 16.4% in April, even worse than the previous record fall set in March, as consumers pulled back on spending during the coronavirus economic lockdown.

Why it matters: It's another indication of how the pandemic is curtailing consumer spending, which is the main driver of the U.S. economy, as people stay home and a record number of Americans are out out work.

By the numbers: The report, which reflects a full month of state-mandated closures for businesses, is worse than the 12.3% monthly drop economists expected.

  • Strip out car sales, and April's retail figures come in at an even worse 17.2%.

Details: Except for online retailers, all retail categories — including auto dealers, furniture shops and clothing stores — suffered declines that would have been unfathomable before the coronavirus.

  • Clothing store sales collapsed 79% from March, and 89% from a year ago.
  • Food and beverage stores, a group that includes grocery stores, fell 13.1% from last month's big boost, when Americans raced to fill their pantries. That's an indication that the panic-buying has eased.
  • Yes, but: Looking at how the category did versus this time last year, it's one of the few that is faring better now in a pandemic environment. Sales are up 12% from last year.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

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Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

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Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.

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A memorial for George Floyd at the site of his death in Minneapolis. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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Why it matters: The agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has launched an investigation into Floyd's death while in police custody, will be enforceable in court.