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Americans’ spending at stores and restaurants unexpectedly sank in May amid even higher inflation

A waiter serves food at a restaurant near Times Square in New York City, U.S., December 16, 2021.

Jeenah Moon/Reuters

  • US retail sales unexpectedly fell 0.3% in May as inflation accelerated again.
  • The print landed below the median estimate of 0.2% growth and showed a slowdown from April’s pace.
  • The report signals the fastest price growth since 1981 started to cut into Americans’ demand.

Americans’ spending at stores, restaurants, and bars unexpectedly tumbled through May as inflation accelerated to an even faster pace.

Retail sales fell 0.3% last month to $672.9 billion, the Census Bureau announced Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg anticipated an increase of 0.2%. The print reflects slower spending growth than the 0.7% gain seen through April.

The April sum was revised to $674.7 billion from $677.7 billion.


The report shows Americans continuing to look past soaring prices and spend big as the economy recovers. Prices for common goods and services surged 8.6% in the year through May, according to data out Friday, marking the fastest inflation since December 1981. The retail sales data suggests those soaring prices are finally starting to erode Americans’ demand.

This story is breaking, check back soon for updates.

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