June 16 (UPI) -- U.S. retail sales for the month of May increased by nearly 18 percent, the Commerce Department said Tuesday in its monthly report.
The assessment pegged May growth at 17.7 percent over April, but 6.1 percent below figures from May 2019.
Most economists had expected a sales increase of about 8 percent, a rebound from April's record retail plunge of 16.4 percent. Excluding auto and gas components, the analysts had predicted a rise of 5 percent in May.
Experts projected continuing strength with online sales and even modest rebounds in heavily affected sectors like restaurants, sporting goods and furniture.
Before the health crisis, the U.S. retail sector was setting records for year-over-year growth, employment and investment. The figures for May, while positive, are still down compared to the same month in 2019.
"Is it possible the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us? Maybe, but we are not out of the woods yet, and uncertainty abounds," National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz wrote this month in an economic review.
"Predicting what will happen is even more challenging than usual. While history often helps guide us, previous downturns offer little guidance on what is likely to unfold over the next six to 12 months."
World moves to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (L) passes out face masks when he arrives at Grand Central Station to attend a nearby press conference to enter phase 1 of a four-part reopening plan in New York City on June 8. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo