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Retail Sales Surge

April 15, 2021

The U.S. Census Bureau announced the following advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March 2021:

Advance Estimates of U.S. Retail and Food Services

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March 2021, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $619.1 billion, an increase of 9.8 percent (0.5 percent) from the previous month, and 27.7 percent (0.7 percent) above March 2020. Total sales for the January 2021 through March 2021 period were up 14.3 percent (0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The January 2021 to February 2021 percent change was revised from down 3.0 percent (0.5 percent) to down 2.7 percent (0.2 percent).

Wall Street was only expecting retail sales to rise 6.1%. That compares with a decline of 2.7% in February.

Retail trade sales were up 9.4 percent (0.5 percent) from February 2021, and up 26.9 percent (0.7 percent) above last year. Motor vehicle and parts dealers were up 71.1 percent (2.3 percent) from March 2020, while food services and drinking places were up 36.0 percent (3.0 percent) from last year.

In the week ending April 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 576,000, a decrease of 193,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 25,000 from 744,000 to 769,000. The 4-week moving average was 683,000, a decrease of 47,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 6,500 from 723,750 to 730,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.7 percent for the week ending April 3, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.7 percent for the week ending April 3, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 3 was 3,731,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 7,000 from 3,734,000 to 3,727,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,763,000, a decrease of 98,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 28, 2020 when it was 3,611,750. The previous week's average was revised down by 1,000 from 3,862,000 to 3,861,000.

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 612,919 in the week ending April 10, a decrease of 152,833 (or -20.0 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 39,687 (or 5.2 percent) from the previous week. There were 4,897,867 initial claims in the comparable week in 2020. In addition, for the week ending April 10, 53 states reported 131,975 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.8 percent during the week ending April 3, unchanged from the prior week. The advance unadjusted level of insured unemployment in state programs totaled 3,936,696, a decrease of 87,991 (or -2.2 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 91,905 (or -2.3 percent) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 8.5 percent and the volume was 12,445,532.

The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending March 27 was 16,934,061, a decrease of 1,235,856 from the previous week. There were 8,196,826 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020. During the week ending March 27, Extended Benefits were available in the following 16 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and the Virgin Islands. Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,110 in the week ending April 3, a decrease of 72 from the prior week. There were 570 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 12 from the preceding week.

There were 16,615 continued weeks claimed filed by former Federal civilian employees the week ending March 27, a decrease of 538 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 7,851, a decrease of 142 from the prior week. During the week ending March 27, 51 states reported 7,053,575 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 5,160,267 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 27 were in Nevada (5.2), Connecticut (5.0), Alaska (4.7), Pennsylvania (4.6), Illinois (4.3), New York (4.1), Rhode Island (4.0), District of Columbia (3.9), Massachusetts (3.8), and California (3.7).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending April 3 were in California (+39,136), New York (+16,771), Oklahoma (+4,615), Michigan (+3,364), and Tennessee (+3,257), while the largest decreases were in Alabama (-13,318), Ohio (-9,358), Georgia (-5,659), Kentucky (-3,415), and Texas (-3,325)

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