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Retail Sales Jump in September as Consumers Spend More and Prices Rise

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Business|Retail sales jump in September as consumers spend more and prices rise.


Shopping for Halloween supplies at a Target store in Miami. Excluding auto sales, retail spending was up 0.8 percent in September.
Credit...Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Oct. 15, 2021, 8:48 a.m. ET

Retail sales rose in September, the Commerce Department reported Friday, a second-straight month of gains as consumer spending dodged a hit from rising prices and widespread supply-chain disruptions.

The 0.7 percent increase in sales last month, which followed a 0.9 percent increase in August, was better than economists had expected. Along with the uptick in overall spending, sales at restaurant and bars, gas stations and clothing stores continued to rise in September.

Economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast a drop of 0.2 percent in overall sales.

Auto sales rose 0.5 percent in September, despite a shortage in semiconductors and shipment delays that have hampered the car market. Excluding auto sales, retail spending was up 0.8 percent, thanks in part to higher gasoline prices. Oil prices climbed to their highest level in seven years in recent weeks amid a global energy crunch, with only gradual efforts to lift production.

The gains come as supply chain disruptions tied to the pandemic persist and rising prices continue to dampen consumer confidence. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey, a gauge for spending behaviors, fell in September after declines in the previous two months, prompted by the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and inflationary pressures.

Prices of consumer goods rose more than expected in September, with people paying more for items like meat, eggs and furniture, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday. In response to rising inflation, the Social Security Administration announced the same day that benefits would increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the biggest jump in 40 years.

To relieve some of the supply chain issues, President Biden announced Wednesday that the Port of Los Angeles will double its hours of operation. The move comes ahead of the all-important holiday season and is intended to resolve a logjam that has slowed the shipment of manufactured goods from Asia.

Major companies including Walmart, UPS and FedEx will also expand their working hours in hopes of addressing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.

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