Retail Sales Plunge in April

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • April retail sales FELL a staggering 16.45 percent or $79.5 billion after dropping $43.8 billion or 8.3 percent in March;
  • The April decline is further evidence of the hit the economy has been taking due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
  • Gasoline station sales FELL 28.8 percent, far in excess of the 17.6 percent drop in the price of a gallon of gasoline which dropped to $1.841 in April from $2.234 in March as stay-at-home orders prevailed in much of the country.
  • Sales at non-store retailers (online) ROSE 8.4 percent; sales at non-store retailers soared to 19.4 percent of total sales in April from 15,0 percent in March
  • The increase in retail activity came in the same month in which the Consumer Price Index FELL 0.8 percent month-month;
  • Retail activity was DOWN 21.6 percent year-year while CPI rose 0.3 percent.


  • Sales fell in every retail category in April from 3.5 percent in building material and garden supply stores to 68.8 percent in clothing stores.
  • BLS reported the number of retail jobs FELL 2,107 in April, a decrease of 13.5 percent from March;
  • Retail sales fell to the lowest level since August 2012.

Data source: Census Bureau

Retail Spending Just Fell Off A Cliff | WFAE

Underscoring – as if it needed that – the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, retail sales plummeted in April, the first full month of shelter-at-home orders.

It’s not that Americans were entirely reluctant to spend – non-store retail (mail order) activity jumped to 19.4 percent from 15.0 percent in March – but in person sales plunged. Restaurants – which converted to delivery and pick-up businesses – saw sales fall 29.5 percent, reflecting lower incomes and travel limitations.

Retail sales also continued to track dismal home sales, with sales falling at furniture stores and appliance stores.

Existing home sales fell 8.5 percent in March new home sales were down 9.5 percent. New housing starts plunged 22.3 percent from February.

And, the Pending Home Sales Index fell again in March, dropping 20.5 percent from February.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.  

Retail Sales Plunge in April

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