Despite the Covid-19 delta variant and the return of some business related restrictions it caused, the August 2021 retail and food services sales saw an unexpended jump of 0.7 percent, a 15 percent jump year over year. Overall, from June 2021 through August 2021 saw a sales increase of 16 percent from the same period a year ago.
The pleasantly surprising numbers, due in part to back-to-school shopping as well as payments for millions of families with children, illustrates a healthy demand for goods. Unfortunately, sales at bars and restaurants remained flat but still up almost 32 percent from a year ago. The bar and restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic and as tightening regulations pop up in places around the country, such as New York City, the fall months bear watching.
The sales at motor vehicles and part dealers continue to slide with a 3.6 percent drop in August, on the heels of July’s 4.6 percent slide. Other sectors that saw declines are electronics and appliances outlets, sporting goods, and hobby stores.
American consumers have also been dealing with higher prices across many goods and services in recent months as businesses pass on, some part of the extra costs associated with constraints on materials and labor. It is unclear what if any role that played in the sales data. In terms of labor, weekly jobless claims increased o 332,000. On top of that, there is concern among various business and industry groups that the recently announced Covid-19 vaccination mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees will exacerbate the labor shortages. That is merely speculation right now, but certainly something to keep an eye on.
Ending on a positive note, control group sales, which are used to calculate gross domestic product (GDP) jumped 2.5 percent, the largest increase in five months.