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US Retail Sales Surge 17.7 Percent in May, Says Commerce Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The advance estimate for U.S. retail and food services sales, including e-commerce, in May is 17.7 percent higher than in April, the U.S. Commerce Department reported this morning. May is the first month since the COVID-19 outbreak halted the U.S. economy that has shown positive month-over-month growth. April was down 14.7 percent from March, and March decreased nearly 10 percent from February.

Spending in May was at $485.5 billion, still lower than pre-pandemic levels. February’s total spending came in at $527.3 billion.

“These sales numbers do not reflect the same strength we had going into the pandemic, but they certainly reflect the trajectory we need coming out of it,” National Retail Federation (NRF) president and CEO Matthew Shay said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The most important thing now is to keep these retail stores open for business and not penalize them by closing their doors in the event of a coronavirus surge.

“As those stores that remained open have shown, retailers have developed solutions that protect the safety of their customers and associates, and they are sharing those lessons to the benefit of store owners large and small in communities across the country.”

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