US Markets

U.S. retail sales increase in June; weekly jobless claims remain elevated


WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) - U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in June, but the budding economic recovery is being threatened by a resurgence in new COVID-19 infections and high unemployment.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales rose 7.5% last month. That was on top of the 18.2% jump in May, which was the biggest gain since the government started tracking the series in 1992. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales advancing 5% in June.

Retail sales have rebounded as businesses resumed operations after being shuttered in mid-March in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But new cases of the respiratory illness have exploded, especially in the densely populated South and West, forcing some authorities in these regions to either close businesses again or pause reopenings.

The uncertainty sparked by the spiraling COVID-19 cases is chipping at the recovery, which started in May, and could worsen already astoundingly high unemployment. The economy had already slipped into recession in February, before the coronavirus-related shutdowns began in the United States.

A separate report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed 1.30 million people filed for state unemployment benefits during the week ending July 11, slightly down from 1.31 million in the prior period. Economists had forecast 1.250 million applications last week.

Claims peaked at a historic 6.867 million in late March. Even now, they remain roughly double their highest point during the 2007-09 Great Recession. Economists say claims are being kept uncomfortabley high by a second wave of layoffs, which could intensify as the COVID-19 infections depress demand and increase bankruptcies, especially in the retail sector.

Millions are set to lose their unemployment checks on July 31 when the government stops paying an additional $600 per week to jobless self-employed people, gig workers and contractors who do not qualify for regular state unemployment benefits. Economists have warned the end of these checks would undercut retail sales and overall consumer spending.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

((; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters Messaging:

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Latest Markets Videos


    Reuters, the news and media division of Thomson Reuters, is the world’s largest international multimedia news provider reaching more than one billion people every day. Reuters provides trusted business, financial, national, and international news to professionals via Thomson Reuters desktops, the world's media organizations, and directly to consumers at and via Reuters TV.

    Learn More