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A sign on the reopened boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

U.S. retail sales rose 17.7% in May, rebounding from a revised 14.7% drop in April, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The result — the biggest monthly jump in consumer spending ever — is a big upside surprise, much better than the 8% jump that economists expected. It's another sign, alongside May's hugely better-than-expected jobs report, that the worst could be over for the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: Retail sales are still down 6.1% from the prior year. Most categories bounced back after taking blows in March and April, when businesses were forced to close. Still, for certain businesses, spending remains much lower than it was this time last year.

  • For example ... Sales at clothing stores jumped 188% from April, but are down over 63% from the same time last year.
  • But: Nonstore retailers — the category that's a proxy for e-commerce — saw sales rise 9% in May and sales in that category are up 31% from last year.
  • And spending at food & beverage stores (which includes grocery stores) rose 2% last month and is up 14.5% year-over-year.

Go deeper

CEO confidence rises for the first time in over 2 years

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A closely-watched CEO economic confidence index rose for the first time after declining for nine straight quarters, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies by trade group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which still remains at a decade low, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which plummeted amid uncertainty when the pandemic hit.

Drought, record heat wave in West tied to climate change

People on Folsom Lake in Granite Bay, California, U.S., June 16, 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The prolonged and widespread heat wave in the West, along with the region's increasingly severe drought, is a sign of how climate change has already tilted the odds in favor of such extremes, studies show.

Why it matters: The rapidly growing Southwest, in particular, is also the nation's fastest-warming region. The combination of heat and drought could lead to a repeat, or even eclipse, the severity of 2020's wildfire season in California and other states.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

What to watch as infrastructure talks heat up

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A mix of Beltway action and extreme weather events have brought the fault lines in infrastructure talks and their planetary stakes into sharper focus.

Catch up fast: Senate Democratic leaders pledged to seek big climate measures in a multitrillion-dollar, Democrats-only package that faces a very narrow political path.