Harsh Weather Chills Retail Sales in February

March 16, 2021

Amid historic snowstorms and cold weather, American shoppers stayed home in February. U.S. retail sales fell by a seasonally adjusted 3% last month, according to the Commerce Department. This is worse than the 0.5% that economists had expected.

The so-called “core” retail sales, which exclude volatile components like food and gasoline, were down 3.5% for the month. The core retail sales are closely watched because they generally correspond to the consumer spending aspect of GDP.  While February’s numbers are disappointing, the lull is expected to be temporary, a strong rebound is expected in the coming months.

Sales in January were revised up to show an increase of 7.6% rather than the 5.3% initially reported. That month’s sales were driven by the $600 stimulus check. Now, with $1400 on the way, along with enhanced unemployment benefits, and the vaccine rollout accelerating, expectations for retail sales in the coming months are high.

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