Retail Sales Surprise with Surge Higher

Retail Sales Surprise with Surge Higher

The stimulus payments worked.

Retail sales jumped 5.3 percent in January, according to a report released by the Commerce Department Wednesday.

Economists had forecast a rise of 1.1 percent.

Excluding autos, sales rose 5.9 percent. That also topped expectations for a rise of just one percent. Excluding gasoline and autos, retail sales rose 6.1 percent, far outpacing the 0.5 percent expected gains.

The control group retail sales—which is used to calculate GDP—rose 6.1 percent.  The control group excludes receipts from auto dealers, building-materials retailers, gas stations, office supply stores, mobile homes, and tobacco stores. This was expected to rise 0.9 percent, according to Econoday.

The much higher than expected retail sales number comes as Congress is considering its next covid relief package. The Biden administration has proposed a $1.9 trillion spending plan but prominent economists on the left and the right have questioned whether that is too much stimulus for an economy already emerging from the pandemic recession.

Compared with a year earlier, retail sales were up 7.4 percent in January.

John Carney