U.S. May retail sales surge 17.7% in the biggest monthly jump ever

Mall employee Glenby Ramirez, right, wipes down the escalator handrail while shoppers pass by as South Coast Plaza reopens, requiring customers maintain a social distance and wear face masks at South Coast Plaza Thursday, June 11, 2020 in Costa Mesa, CA.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Retail sales shattered already-lofty expectations for May as consumers freed from the coronavirus-induced lockdowns began shopping again.

The 17.7% headline gain including food sales easily topped the previous record from October 2001 and beat the 8% estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

Retail sales alone powered 16.8% higher from a month ago, more than double the estimate of 8% from Dow Jones and reversing a 16.4% plunge from a month ago. Clothing and accessories stores reported the biggest percentage gain at 188% while sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and book stores rose 88.2%.

The numbers added to an upbeat mood on Wall Street, with Dow futures most recently pointing to an opening gain of more than 900 points.

President Donald Trump was quick to post on the news, tweeting that it “looks like a BIG DAY FOR THE STOCK MARKET AND JOBS!” even though there are no employment numbers out Tuesday.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, which popped by 44.1%, May’s gain came in at 12.4%, which also is the best on record going back to 1967.

After being almost completely shuttered during the lockdown, food services and drinking places saw a 29.1% rebound in May. Some states began allowing outdoor dining during the month after the establishments were limited to curbside pickup and delivery.

While the monthly gains set records, the economy is still making up for lost ground.

Total sales were off 6.1% from a year ago as economists still expect the biggest annualized GDP in the second quarter that the U.S. has ever seen.

*story by CNBC