Surprise spike in spending by Americans as delta spreads



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Americans continued to shop last month, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases

NEW YORK – Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases, Americans have been spending at a sustained rate last month, although much of that spending has been made online and not in restaurants or other besieged industries by the arrival of the delta variant.

Seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.7% in August from the previous month, the US Department of Commerce said Thursday. This rise surprised economists looking for a slowdown. Consensus estimates were for a decrease of 0.85%, according to a FactSet poll.

But the delta variant has changed where Americans spend their time and money. Online sales soared 5.3% last month, while sales in restaurants and bars, many of whom believed they were going through the worst of the pandemic until delta arrived, were flat from month to month. previous.

In the United States, hesitation over vaccines is cited by economists after the Department of Labor reported this month that employers created just 235,000 jobs in August, well below one million approximately jobs created in each of the previous two months.

Back-to-school shopping may have given a boost to retail sales this month. Department store sales rose 2.4% last month, according to the Commerce Department, as children returned to class and, perhaps for the first time in over a year, bought new clothes and other supplies.

Americans will likely continue to spend in the last few months of the year as more people find jobs and those who saved money during the pandemic have more to spend, said Sal Guatieri, senior economist. at BMO Capital Markets.

“The surprising recovery in retail sales in August supports this positive message,” Guatieri wrote in a note.

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This story has been corrected to say that online sales grew 5.3%, not 5.5%.

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