Retail Sales Jump 5.3 Percent in January, Much Higher Than Expected

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Retail numbers posted their first increase in four months in January, far outpacing expectations, according to data released by the U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday. 

Retail sales rose 5.3 percent in January compared to December, while economists were expecting an increase of just 1.2 percent, according to CNBC. The rise comes after three months of consecutive declines over the course of the holiday shopping season, with retail sales falling one percent in December, according to revised numbers. 

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The strong month came in the wake of the $600 checks Americans received from the second coronavirus stimulus package passed in December. 

Americans increased their spending across all categories in January relative to December, with the strongest growth in electronics, furniture stores and online sales. 

And while total sales rose by 7.4 percent compared to January of last year, some categories posted declines in that time period. The two categories to see the largest drop were restaurants and clothing stores, which fell 16.6 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. On the other hand, the category of “nonstore retailers,” which includes online shopping, increased 28.1 percent year-over-year. 

The latest stimulus checks were part of a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by the Trump administration in the final days of 2020. President Joe Biden is currently formulating a third stimulus package that could issue an additional $1,400 per person in households below a certain income threshold, according to CNN.