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Data: U.S. Census Bureau via FRED; Note: Seasonally adjusted; Chart: Axios Visuals

Retail sales soared 1.7% in October, the best month since March.

Why it matters: The numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation, so some of that jump is because most everything costs more. Still, prices rising at the fastest pace in 30 years hasn't deterred some shoppers.

The big picture: The American consumer looks strong — but economists are watching for pain beneath the surface. What the government data masks is the pressure on Americans whose wage gains aren't keeping up with inflation.

  • Savings will "wind up being a pressure valve for lower-income households" to deal with heftier gas, grocery or heating bills, Ellen Gaske, an economist at Prudential subsidiary PGIM, tells Axios.
  • "The most affected households may have to pull back spending enough that it dents the aggregate. That's the risk I'm watching for," says Gaske.

Worth noting: There's no sign of a spending slowdown at some of the nation's biggest retailers — partly because of inflation, partly because of more demand.

  • At Walmart, there were 6% more transactions than this time last year. How much people spent at the register on average jumped 3%.
  • At Home Depot, the amount spent per visit soared to $82 on average — 13% more than last year.

Go deeper

Half of Walmart employees will now make $15 an hour or more

Photo: David Swanson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Walmart on Thursday said it is raising wages for approximately 425,000 employees to somewhere between $13–$19 an hour following a strong Q4.

Why it matters: The pay boost puts about half of all Walmart employees at $15 an hour or above, per Yahoo Finance.

Updated 28 mins ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 50 mins ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.