U.S. retail sales surged in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, in a signal that at least at the start of the annual holiday shopping season, consumers were not scared off by sharply increasing prices.
Retail sales increased 1.7% last month, more than twice the advance of eight-tenths of a percent in September. Sales have now increased three straight months.
Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, touted the favorable report, saying, “In short, families have seen an increase in real disposable income, and stores and restaurants have the supplies to drive this recovery.”
He said that the retail sales report showed “that even as we work to address the real challenge that elevated inflation from supply chain bottlenecks poses for Americans’ pocketbooks and outlook, the economy is making progress.”
With U.S. consumer price inflation at a three-decade high, it is an open question whether robust consumer spending will continue during the holiday shopping season through the end of 2021.
The government reported last week that consumer prices increased at an annualized rate of 6.2% in October, with sharply higher prices for gasoline and food affecting consumers the most.
The Commerce Department said that October spending was up 4% at online retailers, along with big gains at electronics, appliance and hardware stores. Gas price increases pushed up the sales total at service stations by 3.9% while vehicles sales revenue increased 1.8%.
Aside from higher prices, U.S. consumers are facing shortages of many items they may want to buy.
Several dozen container ships filled with consumer goods from Asia are anchored off the U.S. Pacific coast waiting for docking and unloading at California ports, a supply chain snarl that government officials are gradually unraveling but are far from fully resolving.