New York—Consumer spending in the United States was strong in March, bolstered by another round of stimulus checks.
Overall retail sales were up 9.8 percent month-over-month in March to $619.1 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, while sales were up 27.7 percent year-over-year.
The results exceeded analyst expectations of a monthly gain of 6.1 percent.
In February, sales were down 2.7 percent month-over-month and up 6.7 percent year-over-year as per the revised figures.
National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay said the sales increase in March “confirms that a confident consumer is driving the economic rebound, and that should continue through the remainder of 2021.”
“American households are clearly feeling the full effect of additional fiscal stimulus, gains in the job market and the reopening of the economy.”
Related stories will be right here …
Shay added that while there have been vaccine-related concerns, consumer confidence is high and retailers remain committed to prioritizing customer and employee safety.
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said the numbers confirm that people are going out and spending money, driving up in-store traffic.
“After a disappointing February, there was a perfect alignment of factors supporting a surge in shopping in March,” he said, citing economic stimulus payments, an increase in vaccinations, and the seasonal activity around Passover, Easter and spring break.
“Even with some stimulus money going to savings, consumers’ finances are healthy, and they are willing to spend. Retail sales supported by rigorous fiscal and monetary policy continue to be a bright spot in the economy and have provided momentum during this awful pandemic.”
The retail organization also calculates monthly retail sales, narrowing in on core retail and excluding auto sales, gas stations, and restaurants.
Its calculations show March sales were up 7.4 percent seasonally adjusted from February and up 17.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
March retail sales increased on a month-over-month basis and in every category, except grocery sales, the only category to post a year-over-year decline.
Clothing store sales more than doubled year-over-year, though the NRF noted most stores were closed in mid-March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NRF is forecasting 2021 retail sales will increase between 6.5 percent and 8.2 percent over 2020, totaling between $4.33 trillion and $4.4 trillion.