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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.

10 mins ago - World

Putin calls Biden summit "constructive," says ambassadors will return to posts

Putin at the summit with Biden. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings.

Updated 15 mins ago - World

Live updates: Putin holds press conference after Biden summit concludes

President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva for less than four hours of talks on Wednesday, a highly anticipated summit that comes as both sides say U.S.-Russia relations have sunk to a new post-Cold War low.

The latest: The summit concluded at about 11:15 a.m. ET, according to the White House. At a press conference, Putin called the talks "very constructive' and announced that the U.S. and Russia's respective ambassadors would return to their posts. Biden is expected to deliver his own press conference at 1:30 p.m. ET.