US retail sales rise for 3rd straight month, increasing 1.2% in July

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FILE – In this June 25, 2020 file photo, a price sign is displayed at a retail store as a store employee wears a mask while working in Niles, Ill. Small businesses are in limbo again as the coronavirus outbreak rages and the government’s $659 billion relief program draws to a close. Companies still struggling with sharply reduced revenue are wondering if Congress will give them a second chance at the Paycheck Protection Program, which ends Friday, Aug. 7, after giving out 5.1 million loans worth $523 billion. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Americans increased their retail purchases by 1.2% in July, with solid gains in appliances and clothing helping restore sales to their level before the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March.

Sales at retail stores and restaurants have now risen for three straight months, after plunges in March and April, when the pandemic shuttered businesses and paralyzed the economy, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The report showed sharp increases in sales at electronics and appliances stores, reflecting the needs of people who are now working from home. Furniture sales were flat after a huge gain in June.

Many retailers have said the supplemental unemployment aid had helped spur sales of clothes and other non-discretionary items in the spring and early summer.

“Uncertainty surrounding job and income prospects could weigh on consumer confidence and spending going forward, especially now that enhanced unemployment insurance measures which provided critical support to households have expired,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Retail sales include only about one-third of all consumer spending. The rest involves services — from haircuts and gym memberships to movie tickets and hotel rooms — all of which were hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic and have yet to recover.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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