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Retail Sales Drop More Than Expected in May But Revisions for April Were Positive

Following stimulus distortions in March and April, retail sales took a dive in May.
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Advance Retail Sales Month-Over-Month 2021-05

The impact of the third round of stimulus died in May. 


  • Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May 2021, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $620.2 billion, a decrease of 1.3% from the previous month, but 28.1 percent above May 2020. 
  • Total sales for the March 2021 through May 2021 period were up 36.2 percent  from the same period a year ago. 
  • The March 2021 to April 2021 percent change was revised from virtually unchanged to up 0.9 percent.

Retail Sales as Reported and Revised

Retail Sales as Reported and Revised 2021-05
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The above chart is from Bloomberg Econoday. I created the lead chart from a BLS data download.


Covid has so distorted the month-over month and year-over-year numbers that such comparisons look ridiculous. 

However, the three big peaks in the lead chart following the initial Covid-related plunge tell the story.

The stimulus has now worn off. What will Biden and the Fed do for an encore?