BROAD SALES GAINS
Last month, sales at auto dealership surged 3.6% after rising 0.7% in August. Receipts at restaurants and bars increased 2.1%, though the pace slowed from the 4.3% gain in August. Receipts at clothing stores jumped 11.0%.
Even with September’s increases, sales at bars, restaurants and clothing stores remain well below their pre-pandemic levels. Purchases at electronics and appliance stores fell 1.6%.
Online and mail-order retail sales rose 0.5%. Furniture store sales gained 0.5%. Sales at sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores rebounded 5.7%. These categories notched big year-on-year increases in September, which economists said showed the uneven impact of the recession.
“It’s further evidence of how many top earners have managed to dodge the pandemic by working from home, while most lower- paid workers have been forced to choose between jobs putting them at risk, when they can find them, and unemployment,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial in New York.
The White House and Congress are struggling to reach a deal on another rescue package for businesses and the unemployed. The government reported on Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits increased to a two-month high last week.
Last month’s jump in retail sales set consumer spending on a higher growth path heading into the fourth quarter, which will likely ensure that the economy continues to expand, though at a moderate pace. Growth estimates for the fourth quarter have been lashed to as low as a 2.5% rate from above a 10% pace.