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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the few economic readings sporting a V-shaped recovery is U.S. retail sales, which showed the highest monthly gains in history in May (18.3%) and June (8.4%), and grew in August by 0.6%.

On one hand: While the reading showed a significant slowdown, total retail sales in August were higher than they were before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., even when excluding food services.

  • Spending on electronics rose 0.8%, clothing purchases increased 2.9%, and furniture spending rose 2.1% from July.

On the other hand: There is worry that the slowing pace reflects a slowing economy and consumers pulling back spending because Congress has not passed new relief measures to help the millions of Americans who remain out of work.

  • "Credit- and debit-card data collected by research firm Affinity Solutions and research group Opportunity Insights showed that overall spending was down 7.3% at the end of August compared with January levels," WSJ noted.
  • "JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s tracker of credit- and debit-card transactions showed that spending was down 5.7% over a year ago through Sept. 12, with airlines, travel and entertainment particularly hard hit."

Of note: The retail sales report does not track spending on services like health care, legal, and leisure and hospitality, which make up the lion's share of U.S. consumers' spending.

Go deeper

Housing and consumer confidence sputter

Data: NAR; Chart: Axios Visuals

Momentum in the housing market is slowing, just as consumer confidence is also showing weakness.

Why it matters: Year-end economic data tells a familiar 2020 tale of the haves and the have nots staking out their positions in the final months of the year.

Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Airlines to recall 32,000 employees with fresh aid from Congress

An American Airlines agent checks in travelers during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

American Airlines and United Airlines are expected to recall some 32,000 workers furloughed in October after Congress approved a new round of federal aid, as expected.

Why it matters: Airline workers again scored a special carve-out in Congress' latest coronavirus relief package by arguing that aviation — and the role airlines will play in delivering COVID-19 vaccines — is essential to the U.S. and its economy.

Inaugural address: Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.