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. It said sales totaled $485.5 billion for the month, and increase over about $413 billion in April.
Most economists had expected a sales increase of about 8 percent, a rebound from April's record retail plunge of 14.7 percent. Tuesday's report revised up April's decline by almost 2 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.
The department said in its report Tuesday total sales between March and June, three months that were severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, declined 10.5 percent compared to last year.
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