U.S. retail sales jumped by the most since September 2017 and first-time filings for unemployment benefits dropped to a fresh 49-year low, as a strong labor market gives American consumers the wherewithal to keep the economy chugging along.
Bloomberg reported that the value of overall sales in March rose 1.6%, boosted by gains in motor vehicles and gasoline stations, after an unrevised 0.2 percent decrease the prior month, according to Commerce Department figures released Thursday. That exceeded all forecasts in Bloomberg’s survey calling for a 1% gain.
A Labor Department report released at the same time showed initial jobless claims fell last week to 192,000, the lowest since September 1969. Economists had projected an increase.
“The labor market is alive and well,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC. Income gains support consumer spending and “as long as the labor market is doing well there is good reason to expect consumer spending should do fine.”
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