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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

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.

Go deeper

Biden picks Robert Santos to be first person of color to lead Census bureau

President Biden on Tuesday announced that he plans to nominate Robert Santos, vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, as director of the U.S. Census Bureau at the Department of Commerce.

Why it matters: If confirmed by the Senate, Santos, who also serves the president of the American Statistical Association, would be the first person of color to permanently lead the agency.

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.

2 hours ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.