June 17, 2020

Retail sales see record rebound in May

data flashTotal retail sales surged 17.7 percent in May, marking the biggest monthly jump on record and an impressive rebound from April. May's surprising recovery provides "more evidence that April was likely the bottom of the cycle," noted NAFCU Chief Economist and Vice President of Research Curt Long in a new NAFCU Macro Data Flash report.

"One large question remains: how important was fiscal stimulus," said Long. "Expanded unemployment benefits and one-time stimulus checks undoubtedly served to support May sales to some extent.

"If the impact was a large one, further improvement hinges on the continued support from Congress," Long added. "Regardless, the fact that a strong bounce back in economic activity occurred earlier than expected limits the long-term structural damage to the economy coming from shuttered businesses and long-term unemployment."

Year-over-year growth in retail sales was down 6.1 percent in May following a 20 percent dip in April. Control group sales decreased 5.7 percent from a year ago.

Results among the major retail segments also made an impressive recovery. Compared to last month, the clothing sector rebounded 188 percent, followed by the furniture sector (+89.7 percent), sporting good and hobby stores (+88.2 percent), and electronics stores (+50.5 percent). Long highlighted that despite the gains, most sectors are still well below their year-ago levels.

"There is still a large gap to fill in the economy, but the signs lately are undeniably positive," Long concluded.