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Virus Clobbers Retail Sales, US Factories

Both industries see record drops
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2020 9:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – US retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, per the AP. The Commerce Department’s report Friday on retail purchases showed a sector that has collapsed so quickly that sales over the past 12 months are down a crippling 21.6%. The severity of the decline is unrivaled for retail figures that date back to 1992. The monthly decline in April nearly doubled the previous record drop of 8.3%—set just one month earlier. “It’s like a hurricane came and leveled the entire economy, and now we’re trying to get it back up and running,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist for the consultancy Maria Fiorini Ramirez. The sharpest declines from March to April were at clothing, electronics, and furniture stores.

While online sales have risen amid the outbreak, that didn't make up for the general retail misery. Auto dealers suffered a monthly drop of 13%. Furniture stores absorbed a 59% plunge. Electronics and appliance stores were down over 60%. Retailers that sell building materials posted a drop of roughly 3%. After panic buying in March, grocery sales fell 13%. Clothing-store sales tumbled 79%, department stores 29%. Restaurants, some of which are already starting to close permanently, endured a nearly 30% decline despite shifting aggressively to takeout and delivery orders. More bad news Friday: American industry recorded the biggest drop on record last month as factories, mines, and utilities were all battered by the pandemic as well. The Federal Reserve said its industrial production index plunged a record 11.2% in April, per the AP.

(Read more industrial stories.)

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