U.S. retail sales plunged in April, shattering the prior record set just a month earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, spurred layoffs and kept Americans at home.
Revenue at retailers and restaurants fell 16.4 percent in April from the prior month, almost double the 8.3 percent drop in March which was previously the worst in data back to 1992, according to a Commerce Department report released Friday. That compared with the median projection for a 12 percent decline.
While government shutdowns only marred part of March, the shutdowns — and their impacts on spending — were felt to the full extent in April. With most Americans stuck at home and unemployment the highest since the Great Depression era, people sharply reduced their spending in the month.
All but one of 13 major categories decreased, led by a 78.8 percent drop at clothing stores and a 60.6 percent decline at electronics and appliance stores. The only category to record a gain was nonstore sales, which include online sellers such as Amazon.com and increased 8.4 percent.
Food and beverage stores, which saw sales surge in March as Americans stocked up on essential goods, fell 13.1 percent. Restaurants and bars were down 29.5 percent.
A sharp drop-off in consumer spending is one of the main drivers behind estimates for gross domestic product this quarter to post the sharpest drop in records dating back to 1947. With states starting to loosen some business curbs, though, spending will likely pick up in the coming months.