Can Retail Sales Only Grow if Americans Get Permanent Stimulus Payments in this Era of Free Money? That’s the Question Now

“Lapse” in stimulus payments, bad weather blamed for retail sales decline, as inflation on durable goods hits 3.3%. Counting on next round of free money!

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Here is the thing: Retail sales in February dropped 3.0% from January to $562 billion, seasonally adjusted, according to the Census Bureau this morning, much lower than “expected.” What gets blamed for the discrepancy? The weather, which in February was nasty in much of the country. But if these economists had looked at anything at all in February, they would have known that a big part of the country had frozen up, with massive rolling blackouts in Texas and elsewhere, for days in a row.

Also blamed was the “lapse in government aid” – as MarketWatch put it so elegantly – namely the $600 stimulus payments that started going out the end of December and were apparently all used up in January, now that retail sales apparently need free money to be sent to consumers permanently to maintain momentum.

And yet, retail sales in February were still up 6.3% from February last year, which isn’t too shabby, considering the horrible “lapse” in free money – soon to be rectified with more free money – and the inability to even go shopping for part of the time in part of the country:

Retail sales increases are also driven by price increases on those goods, of which there have been a bunch. Prices of durable goods jumped 3.3% in February year-over-year, with the past three months having booked the biggest year-over-year price increases in many years (red line). Prices of non-durable goods, mostly food and gasoline, rose 1.7% (green line):

Sales at new & used auto dealers and parts stores fell 4.2% in February from January, to $116 billion, seasonally adjusted. Year-over-year, sales were up 9.9%. But there have been rampant price increases, including the used vehicle CPI, which surged 9.3% year-over-year. This is the largest category of retail sales, accounting for 21% of total retail sales:

Sales at ecommerce sites and other “non-store retailers” (mail-order operations, stalls, vending machines, etc.) in February fell 5.4% from January to $87 billion, seasonally adjusted. But they were up by a huge 25.9% from a year ago, as the ecommerce boom continues unabated. Ecommerce has grown to be the second largest category in retail sales:

Sales at Food and Beverage Stores was flat in February compared to January, at $72 billion (seasonally adjusted) but up 12% from a year ago, amid the continued shift of consumption from the office, schools, restaurants, business trips, and vacations to the home:

Sales at Restaurants & Bars ticked down 2.5% in February from January to $54 billion (seasonally adjusted), remaining in the same range since July, and down 17% year-over-year. This includes cafeterias, delis, fast-food joints, and other “food services and drinking places”:

Sales at general merchandise stores (minus department stores) fell 4.9% in February from January, to $53 billion, but were still up 8.6% from a year ago. This includes sales at the brick-and-mortar stores of Walmart, Costco, and Target, but not their ecommerce sales, which are included in ecommerce sales (nonstore retailers):

Sales at brick-and-mortar department stores plunged 8.4% in February from January and 14.5% from a year ago, to just $9.4 billion. From the peak in January 2001 to January 2021, sales have collapsed by 53%, despite 20 years of population growth and inflation. Dear landlords, department stores are not going to recover ever, as you can see from the chart. Consumers have decided that this way of shopping no longer works for them; they’d rather buy this stuff online. And the Pandemic has accelerated that shift:

Sales at building materials, garden supply and equipment stores dropped 3.0% in February from January, to $39 billion, the second highest ever, and were still up a massive 14% year-over-year, attesting to the surge consumer spending on their homes:

Sales at gas stations ticked up 1.4% in February from January and were up 3.6% from a year ago. But this wasn’t because Americans were finally driving a little more; on the contrary. It was because gas prices have surged.

At the end of February, the average retail price a regular was up 12% year-over-year, according to EIA data, and these ongoing price increases have been pushing gasoline sales higher in recent months:

Sales at clothing and accessory stores fell 2.8% in February from January, to $19.6 billion, and were down 11% from a year earlier. Despite population growth and inflation, sales at these brick-and-mortar stores are flat with 2011 and are up only a smidgen from 2007. Americans, who’re buying more clothes than ever, have figured out just how easy it is to buy them online. And these brick-and-mortar stores, dear mall landlords, will not recover:

Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores fell 7.5% in February from January, to $7.7 billion, but were still up by 15% from a year earlier. These are sales at brick-and-mortar stores only and do not include ecommerce, where much of the sporting goods and books – see Amazon – are now getting purchased. And online sales of sporting goods have surged as people were locked out from their gyms and started working out at home or outdoors, leading to all kinds of shortages and bottle necks:

Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores fell 3.8% in February from January, to $11 billion, but were still up 8.9% year-over-year. Americans have also switched their furniture purchases to ecommerce with some of the biggest furniture retailers selling exclusively online. For example, revenues of online furniture retailer Wayfair soared by 55% to $14 billion in 2020. But the sales in the chart are just at brick-and-mortar stores:

Sales at Electronics and appliance stores ticked down 1.9% in February from January, to $7.8 billion, and were down 3.1% year-over-year. Even though Americans are buying more consumer electronics and appliances than ever before, sales at brick-and-mortar stores peaked in 2008, and have wandered off to ecommerce.

Best Buy, which has had huge success in growing its ecommerce business, is closing stores when the leases terminate, and until then, it is using them as customer pickup and delivery centers.

Many other brick-and-mortar electronics retailers have been liquidated. The latest fatality is Fry’s Electronics, which announced on February 24 that it would cease operations and shut all of its 31 stores, blaming “changes in the retail industry,” namely ecommerce, and “the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” which were just speeding up the process:

 

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  110 comments for “Can Retail Sales Only Grow if Americans Get Permanent Stimulus Payments in this Era of Free Money? That’s the Question Now

  1. Depth Charge says:

    “Sales at new & used auto dealers and parts stores fell 4.2% in February from January, to $116 billion, seasonally adjusted. Year-over-year, sales were up 9.9%. But there have been rampant price increases, including the used vehicle CPI, which surged 9.3% year-over-year. This is the largest category of retail sales, accounting for 21% of total retail sales.”

    The local Toyota dealer can’t keep 4Runners and Tacomas on the lot. They come in, they’re immediately sold. Ditto the local Ram dealer and any diesel truck. Try buying a Northern Lite camper. Backordered. Ditto Arctic Fox campers. Or Jeep Rubicons, etc. This stuff sells immediately, and for top dollar. You tell me what’s going on.

    • Seneca’s Cliff says:

      My guess with the Rubicon’s is that there are a group of people enamored with 1950’s vehicle technology. You can’t go back to the 1950’s but you can get a car that rides and drives like grandpa’s nash. Except even that did not have a flat windshield

      • Cas127 says:

        The auto biz does occasionally cough up bizarro offerings.

        I’m still wondering about the old Archie and Jughead inspired PT Cruiser from 10-15 years ago.

        Honest to God, after 15 yrs…I can’t figure out who that vehicle was targeted at.

        • roddy6667 says:

          The PT Cruiser is a knockoff of a 1937 Chrysler Airflow. Google it.

          Just an observation. I only see ugly people driving PT Cruisers. What’s up with that?

        • NBay says:

          I’m still waiting to see one of those hot-rod inspired Mopar retros on the street….no luck after….what?…15-20 years?

        • SpencerG says:

          Chrysler was pretty much the only car company making innovative body designs in the pre-Great Recession days. Ford is like the Dell Computer company of automakers… the finance people run the company… not the design people… and their goal is to squeeze out pennies on production rather than make eye-catching new vehicles. GM… just boring… BIG but boring.

          The PT Cruiser was an outgrowth of the “retro” phase that the country was enjoying in the late 90s… same timeframe as “That 70s Show” being broadcast. As well as the “new” Beetle from VW. And Chrysler sold over a million of them in nine years before the financial crisis so they did alright with it… almost 50% better than yearly sales for Dodge Chargers.

          That said, I rented one in Detroit once… and it drove like a go-cart. It may have been fun looking… but it was NOT a fun drive.

      • Bobby Bittman says:

        All items are in demand by those who enjoy front country escapes from the world changers. The Rubicons can get them there. Tesla’s not so much.

    • JK says:

      Maybe it means not everyone is broke and has a job. Not everyone has been affected by Covid. I bought a 2020 Rubicon end of 2020. The 2021’s were out already. Got a fair shake on the price. I think they’re overpriced as you add options. Jeep does on the Wranglers what Porsche does which is charge you out the wazoo for options. I was able to get a 36 month loan for zero interest.

      Maybe these other retailers are giving low interest or no interest loans. If you got a job, your finances in order, then get what the heck you want. You only live once.

      • Depth Charge says:

        “Maybe it means not everyone is broke and has a job. Not everyone has been affected by Covid.”

        Over 700k new unemployment claims per week, for OVER A YEAR STRAIGHT. The highest number of claims during the Great Recession in 2009 was 665,000. So, averaging more than the highest week of that time period, for MORE THAN 52 WEEKS. And yet big ticket item sales are off the charts in record territory. I smell a lot of bullsh!t.

        • BuyHighSellLow says:

          DC,

          Your thinking and mine are nearly perfectly aligned in this regard. I find myself asking the identical questions I was contemplating back in the 2005-2007 years, like “how is everyone driving a new $35k truck?”

          By the way, do you remember when $35k seemed like a crazy chunk of change for a pickup? I was looking for a used rig for my company and I just balked at a $60k for a – you guessed it – 4WD, 3/4 ton Ram with the Cummins and a whole bunch of bells and whistles. I offered $58.5k cash and they brushed me aside like a begger; serves me right because they sold that pickup in six days, and the only thing I’m left thinking is that in a year or two, $60k for a decent, one-year-old used pickup won’t seem crazy anymore.

          Of course, the comparisons between nowadays and 2005-2007 also extend to real estate and other sectors. For some reason, though, I no longer expect a repeat of the bust we saw a dozen years ago. I think I’ve finally been worn down and I question if all the sacrifices I put my family though and the savings we have to show for those sacrifices were worth it. Seem less and less like sacrificing and saving were the right things to do.

          Believe me when I say that I know your frustration.

        • Ethan in NoVA says:

          A number of friends just bought new trucks and vehicles. Their old ones were at the end of their service life. They have stable jobs, and were moved to WFH without issue. A lot of the job losses are in the tourism, service industry and the like. Many other jobs aren’t effected. Plus for those that don’t make too much, the stimmys make them feel wealthy. One friend has saved so much by not going out or driving to work he was able to pay a huge portion of it in cash.

          $500-$1000 video cards for computers, kids lining up at the local Microcenter at midnight trying to get them.

        • RightNYer says:

          Yeah, normally, massive unemployment in one sector has effects on others, but the government transferred all of the pain to its own balance sheet. In other words, it really just delayed the pain.

      • Timmy! says:

        If you get a zero percent interest loan, the issuer is making money on the principal. Ask for the cash price.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      It might not be happening like that everywhere….

      The autotrader website has 23K Tacomas, 16K Rubicons, 135K Ram trucks, 94K diesel trucks and 12K Toyota 4Runners for sale.

  2. polistra says:

    Retail sales won’t recover until people are allowed to BREATHE while shopping. Most normal humans are choosing to avoid strangulation except when absolutely necessary.

    • RightNYer says:

      They’ve already recovered and then some.

    • David Hall says:

      In spite of a recession, 2020 saw growth in e-commerce. This trend was apparent before the pandemic.

      Most of the local 65+ community has been vaccinated. Dining and dancing activities resumed. There is joy in the 55+ community. The governor has opened up the vaccination reservation system to the 60+ boomers.

      Home building is increasing. Pro contractors and home owners were going to the home improvement stores.

      $1400 checks, more forbearance, more Federal unemployment checks and other stimulus on the way. Unemployment has been falling.

      • RightNYer says:

        Yup. Happy days are here again! Assuming that the rest of the world doesn’t continue to lose interest in our dollars/tbills. Who knew that we could just transfer all pain to the U.S. government’s balance sheet and fix all problems?

        • Shiloh1 says:

          Wonder why Hoover and FDR didn’t try it 90 years ago?

        • re:Shiloh There were no durable goods then. Govt spent money building infrastructure, TVA, while there were few if any electric appliances. If they had printed money that might have set off a Weimar inflation. By 37 things were better and when the Fed raised rates too soon they cut off the recovery. Hoover was an old school capitalist, while FDR founded NeoLiberal policy, which made the internet (govt entity) into an online bazaar.

        • RightNYer says:

          Ambrose, durable goods were not the reason in my opinion. It’s that we’ve been the sole superpower for so long that we have a lot more latitude to print dollars and export that inflation overseas. But even we have a limit.

      • Cas127 says:

        Job growth has slowed way, way down since the middle of last yr.

        We are still down 7 million jobs yr over yr.

    • Artem says:

      The sales have recovered quite a bit and additional spending will not be affected much by stimulus payments.

      If the consumer is in a foul mood, $1,400 will be used to pay off debt or stash under the mattress.

      If the consumer is super optimistic, he will spend until the credit cards and the home equity are all tapped out.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      polistra,

      Before you post this kind of nonsense, at least look at the charts: retail sales have already totally recovered and are higher than they were a year ago.

    • tom20 says:

      Still having to mask up?

      Plenty of places in the US no longer required.
      I think the last time I had to wear a mask was about 6 months ago…hospital.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Agreed

      I haven’t been out shopping for at least a year except to hit a thrift shop to pick up some odds & ends. I hate wearing a mask indoors, and it is very unhealthy.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      I’m 51 yrs old, 60lbs overweight and I can somehow breathe just fine with a mask on. It seems like a small price to pay to me for ending the pandemic and protecting people’s lives.

      The saddest thing about this whole fiasco, is that if we have adults running the country when it hit, we could have all masked up seriously for about 6-8 weeks and it would be over now.

      It’s the arrogance and ignorance of people (like certain politicians calling it a ‘hoax’ and politicizing the mask) that made it so terrible. Our former President got his shot secretly and hasn’t mentioned it. #faketuffguy

      A few hundred thousand people could still be alive right now….

      • Jos Oskam says:

        Yep. If everybody had just masked up, the pandemic would have ended, lots of lives would have been saved, and the virus would have retreated and disappeared like it never existed.

        Because, everyone knows it’s super easy to stop a virus. /sarc

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Agree with a lot of your comment ndrl!
        1. As what is now called an ( elderly ) immunocompromised person, who gets a cold when someone on the next block sneezes, been wearing a mask in public AND following all the well known other detox practices, since Jan2020, and will continue to do so in public AS MY CHOICE, no matter what any puppet politician of any side or anybody else says.
        And I really don’t give a fig who ever else wants to wear a mask or not,,, IMO, that is their choice, and that is what USA is still about, thank the Great Spirits. I also think any private organization has the right to insist on, ”no shoes or shirt or mask, no service,” as has been the case since we were first reminded/informed of that private right back in the 1960s when we were going into stores in only a bathing suit.
        2. Got a book, ”Fast, Feast, Repeat” by Gin Stephens a couple months ago, started following directions therein at start of March, and already feel GREAT deal better,, hit 50#s or so, obese for me about Christmas, and just knew I had to do something,,,
        Just imagine one of these self help type books that actually talks the science AND gives reference to the studies instead of just interpolating, usually incorrectly, the results.
        Read, for the first time, someone talk about ”bio individuality” a concept that certainly appears to be obvious, but also seems to be mostly ignored with most self help and mainstream medical services deliverers.

        • Anthony A. says:

          VVN, thanks for the tip on the book. As I have gotten older (77+ now), my level of activity has decreased and I am 25 lbs beyond where I should be now. I’ll get the book and see what IF is all about.

      • ross says:

        Zzzzzzzzzzzz, a Twatter NPC?

    • doug says:

      Whoa. You might want to get a better mask. I work out with one with no ill effects. WTF is this ‘strangulation’ you are mentioning? I don’t get it.

  3. El Katz says:

    I wonder how much of the increase in “sales” at the building material supply stores are the result of the tremendous ramp up in the cost of lumber and related products?

  4. Artem Aleksenko says:

    A typical consumer with an average credit score has revolving credit headroom 10 times that. He just needs a more sanguine assessment of his future to increase spending. Maybe the stimulus check helps with such optimism?

  5. ThePetabyte says:

    “Sales at ecommerce sites and other “non-store retailers” (mail-order operations, stalls, vending machines, etc.) in February fell 5.4%”

    Isn’t this the kicker right here? At this point ecommerce is the litmus test for general sales across a large breadth of industries. You don’t need to wear a mask and social distance online, so what’s the rationale behind this drop? Me thinks people are starting to feel the pinch.

    • RightNYer says:

      Or they’ve spent the last year loading up on crap and have finally felt like they had enough. How many large LED TVs, Pelotons, sofas, and other garbage can one fill his house with?

      • David Hall says:

        What will happen if they pass a bill providing $10,000 worth of student debt forgiveness per person? Some college grads are wealthy. It is like welfare for the upper class, middle class and lower class with degrees or some college. A degree in art history and $2.75 could buy a cup of coffee. What will they buy if their debt is forgiven?

        • Shiloh1 says:

          It’s welfare for the colleges who can keep the high costs going.

        • Depth Charge says:

          “Debt forgiveness”

          All of these crackpot ideas do nothing to address the problem, they’re only temporary band-aids intended to pacify certain groups. And what they do is they keep the failed policies in place to continue financially raping the same people to the benefit of the same people.

          You know what you never see talked about regarding this “student loan forgiveness?” The fact that the US taxpayer is on the hook for it, and the scumbag bankers and colleges get to keep all of their blood money. It’s time to stop the shenanigans, and cut the heart out of the financial industry. Just gut it to the bone, render it, and make it disappear for good.

        • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

          Depth Charge is right! While we’re fixing things, how about the
          $6.5 trillion dollars flushed down the toilet by the taxpayers since 2001 fighting utterly pointless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan?! Wasted money, wasted lives, nothing to show for it.

          Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no WMDs.

          How about the $400 billion dollar F-35 fiasco?! The plane that won’t fly!!

          More money down the toilet. Remember that guy…that one President…what was his name? Oh yeah, President Eisenhower!

          He’s the one who used his final tv speech to warn the US public about the dangers of the Military – Industrial – Complex.

          Nobody listened and everything he warned us about came true.

          At least w/paying for students in college, you get something back….education.

        • RightNYer says:

          Only if you consider “gender studies” and “critical race theory” “education” do you get education.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      ThePetabyte,

      You should have added the next sentence in that paragraph, which says this:

      “But they were up by a huge 25.9% from a year ago, as the ecommerce boom continues unabated.”

      • ThePetabyte says:

        Indeed, but barring the anomaly of March ’20, this looks to be one of the larger drops even in comparison to the end of 2018. I may be jumping the gun, but next month’s figure will most likely give us better insight. Although sporadic but increasing business reopenings may skew this figure down the road.

  6. Rough Justice says:

    Another factor in the sales slump might be all the cargo ships backed up off the coast of California.

  7. Avraam J. Dectis says:

    .
    Auto dealers and the like push the monthly payment as the selling point.
    Low rates makes for a lower monthly payment with a higher cost.
    Buyers do not mentally register the actual price.
    If interest rates go up there may be more price resistance.
    .

    • El Katz says:

      It’s a known fact that the majority of people are payment buyers. The auto dealers use a strategy called a “four square” – which essentially masks the price paid for the vehicle through a ploy similar to three card monte. Most rubes fall for it as they can “afford the monthly” without ever referring to the actual sale price.

      Then there’s the infamous “lease conversion” which can result in some chumps leasing a car… when they think they bought it.

  8. Paulo says:

    There was a lumber comment up above. I am starting a small job right now. Was going to order trusses to speed things up. 7 week line up for the trusses, $600 trucking fee to move them 20 miles to be loaded on to another truck, or I could hire my own truck with hyab for probably $300. Plus, the cost of $350 per truss to have them built. Crunched the numbers and will instead build a rafter roof with post and beam…probably 1/2 the cost even with me hiring extra labour to help. 7 weeks to get some trusses made up, and that’s what they are admitting it will be. It could be well over 2 months.

    Construction is booming. House sales off the charts. And furniture stores madly reburshing it all. Many people are upgrading before interest rates rise. I stopped in at a commercial tool store this morning. It was busy with commercial contractors and trades.

    Our mail lady (rural route) is having to do two daily runs now, there is so much retail purchased online. She can’t fit it all into her van. The only slow aspect of our economy is tourism and hospitality due to Covid. Everything else is booming. Canada added 259,000 jobs last month. Extrapolated to US population that would be 2.6 million new jobs added. Mass vaccinations ongoing with a projected return to a more normal lifestyle by July 1. We’ll know more by May….ish. Can’t wait.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Suggest you make your own trusses P,,, we been doing it for many years.
      You can buy the nail plates on line if you must, or just use 3/4 plywood and regular nails, etc.
      There is nothing special about store bought trusses except for the engineering, and most likely a website out there these days that can provide the engineering at some nominal fee.
      Or, as you say, just stick frame the roof the old fashion way… again, nothing wrong with it if you do it carefully, though it is a bit slower on the site than installing the trusses,,, but what do you care about the speed, eh? Something to do to keep busy and focused!

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        You guys remind me of the time, long, long ago, when I helped cut rafters for a gambrel roof with two big hip roof wall dormers on each side. That was when Dad showed me the riches imprinted into a simple framing square. Only a few initial screw-ups ;-)

      • Jos Oskam says:

        Or just leave the nail plates and do the trusses the old-fashioned way, mortise and tenon timber framing, hammer and chisel, wooden pegs. I’ve done some that way in solid oak with a 6 meter span for my old farmhouse in France.
        It’s really enjoyable work and you can leave the end result visible, traditional timber framing is quite beautiful to look at.
        For the tariffs Paulo mentioned, for me the choice would be easy.

    • Old school says:

      I believe if you include the US fiscal and monetary stimulus we are going to be in for $9 trillion or so in less than two years.

      I just don’t see that as a reason to go out and spend, but to shore up your personal finances. I have relative I will buy some gold or silver off of if I can’t find anything else to do with it.

  9. Augusto says:

    Boom, boom, boom…..keep business afloat by giving them low interest rates, subsidies, debt moratoriums and credit…..same for consumers, but add in lots stimulus cheques, increased unemployment cheques, child bonuses, special covid payments…..send lots of pretty looking bonds and currency to Asia where they still work and make stuff……and we can boom, boom, boom forever and ever…..So easy, so wonderful…why didn’t we think of this before. Of course if those Asian countries actually want something from us for this fancy currency and bonds (i.e. worthless paper, pixel free digits)…wellll….that could be problem….we don’t make anything and lets be honest, we will never pay them back anyways. We are too busy consuming and buying and buying and consuming to worry about mundane things like providing work of value, paying back debtors, etc…Party on…..

    • OutWest says:

      “we don’t make anything”

      The US has the second largest manufacturing sector in the world. Not exactly nuttin.

      Obviously the trend is a problem.

  10. timbers says:

    Well, speaking to point raised…it probably hasn’t occurred to the Washington bubble crowd that folks need regular income to feel safe to spend in a regular way. Then consider that the national welfare program was abolished under Bill Clinton, yet I work with co-workers who eagerily inform me Trump is going to run in 2024…and say things like “nobody should be without a home in the richest nation. They should get a $2,000 check every month. And food stamps are a joke you can’t live on them.”

  11. Crush the Peasants! says:

    Are we creating a new slippery slope phenomena, as was done with the criminal banking cartel? From an economic theory perspective, if you provide unearned money to people to buy things that ordinarily they’d have to work hard for, are you displacing productive effort? Is the work ethic being eroded or, perhaps, subverted? And will folks expect future or perhaps continual free money?

    • Depth Charge says:

      The local retail places all have “NOW HIRING” signs with no takers. Why would somebody apply for a $12 per hour job when they’re taking home almost $800 per week without even working?

      • RightNYer says:

        This was by design. The employers will eliminate the jobs, either by figuring out a way to make do without them or they’ll close, and then the jobs really will be gone, and the “enhanced” unemployment will be needed in perpetuity.

        Unemployment will remain high, and the Fed will feel justified in keeping rates at zero, leading to the bubble getting even bigger.

        • p coyle says:

          and this enhanced unemployment will, no doubt, be either slightly higher than or commensurate with any future enhanced minimum wage follow through. what if they raised the minimum wage and nobody showed up?

      • Old school says:

        Believe it or not we have three modern textile manufacturing plants within five miles of where I live. One has the biggest help wanted banner I have ever seen. Seeing a lot of help wanted signs around for non skilled labor.

        • Sam says:

          Billboard on I-5 seeking truck drivers for mega carrier [not Prime] stating “average W2 is 80k”.

          Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, keep them wheels rolling…. (taken off “Rawhide” 60’s tv western)

        • Cas127 says:

          Hmm…Down 7 million jobs yr over yr, or about 5% of all US jobs.

          Those Covid bonuses acted as a drug.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        Was in Wells Fargo today for the 1st time in 3 months. Only one teller. One dude was tying up the line while on the phone talking to his girlfriend. I waited for about 10 minutes and then walked out. It was too dangerous to be in a confined area where 500 strangers were just in there. Nice way to get Covid-19. Why the hell can’t they hire more tellers? Apparently they are so cheap or are still paying fines for ripping off customers in California with fake accounts, and laundering drug money for profit.

        • Sam says:

          “Wells Fraud” a most duplicitous group (back in last housing meltdown) on mortgage modifications.

        • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

          Bank of America had my business for 2 decades.

          I used to bounce a check about once a year and the fee was $5. The tellers would say “Oh honey, you rarely do that, we’ll just let that slide.”

          About 15 yrs ago, I bounced a check because I was 25 cents short. They charged me $70 for 2 bounced checks.

          I asked the 20-something manager about it, didn’t like his answer and walked out w/my middle finger in the air telling him “Shove it up your *ss, you corporate stooge!”

          I now have 2 banks, a local credit union (started for employees of Tropicana Orange Juice factory). The 2nd is a small local bank with only 3 branches. When you call them….a human being answers the phone. Screw the big banks!

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Wells Fargo is the cleanest shirt of the bunch.

          BOA, Citi, JPM/Chase, are criminal organizations fronting as banks.

          They are the equivalent of Al Capone fronting as a furniture dealer on his business card.

  12. Petunia says:

    Wolf,

    The boost to the unemployment checks hasn’t been $600 since last summer when the program ended. The last boost is only $300 and started at the end of last year and will now continue until Sept 2021.

    I was at Goodwill today, it was busy, they have new merchandise on the shelves which I assume is from businesses that closed. Stocked up on new socks for next year, 10 pairs for $6. That stimulus check is already slipping through my fingers.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Petunia,

      That $600 referenced in the article was the stimulus payment that started going out in December to whoever qualified. It wasn’t related to unemployment benefits.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      We never got the $1,200 stimulus payment that we were qualified for. Now I’m sure we’ll not get the next one either. This is a total scam. They shouldn’t even be doing this as it is only helicopter money which is going to bankrupt this country in the future if it hasn’t already.

    • Cas127 says:

      “10 pairs for $6”

      3 pair for $1 at Dollar Tree, all the time.

      • p coyle says:

        some people desire the quality they remember, yet lack the funds or even the opportunity to acquire such. oftentimes both. i too keep my eye out for things like a good bargain on decent socks. and decent socks are not generally what’s available at the dollar store in my experience. disposable socks, yes. decent socks, not so much.

        • Petunia says:

          The socks are a reliable brand in good basic colors. The colors are important because cheap items use cheap dyes which become expensive when they ruin everything in the washer.

      • Ethan in NoVA says:

        Wait, for $3.33 I can wear brand new socks every week?

    • FaithfulReader says:

      ‘Galiva’ socks are good value for the money when available.

      Thank you for previously explaining about “fashionistas”, Madame P. Valuable insight.

  13. SnotFroth says:

    Oh boy the department store sales will be testing the “zero bound” in a few more years.

    If a hybrid online B&M retailer sells most of their stuff online and then accepts a bunch of returns in store, I wonder if the department store sales can be pushed down into the negative.

    • Beardawg says:

      SnotFroth

      Interesting concept. That could be a great tax strategy for a retailer !

  14. shandy says:

    For those US Treasury hunters out there whom may be reading here, there is this to consider.

    The US treasury auctions this week aren’t going to go very well by a threat of further raising rates. So there you have it!
    Not sure it matters what Powell says tomorrow.

    Happy shopping big box store consumer.

    • Old school says:

      Been reading all I can on financial matters. Japan and Europe central banks are already buying 100% of new sovereign issues and Fed is going to be buying a big share of US debt. I read Fed is on a tightrope and can easily blow up emerging market debt if dollar gets too strong because of treasury yield increases. Powell is try to BS market and market may call his bluff forcing him to doing yield curve control

  15. polecat says:

    Nothing will grow .. organically .. until the government ticks
    (otherwise known as CONGRESS! … get off their collective f#cking a$$e$, and demand that the volkin who are supposedly enconsed in the pursuit of “REGULATING” Bidness, ESPECIALLY THE BIGGEST BIDNESSES … Do THEIR F#cking Job .. as it purtains to leveling the playing field … so Jeffery, @Jack, Zuckers, Cardigan billy, et al .. don’t hold unfair advantage AND act as’free-speach judge-jury over the plebiscite. Let me repeat that word – P•L•E•B•I•S•C•I•T•E!!! … Can you say that , boy n girls n ‘theys’, or whatever!! … I • knew • you • couldn’t.
    UNFORTUNATELY….. Our Congrees volkin, both in the ppls ‘Haus’, and those Senatorial Phonys ..only know ONE word —— Gimmie! ——- my PRESSSSSCCCCCIIIIIOOOOOSSSSSS!!!!!

    So down we all go, into the ruddy f#cking ditch! Together — as one brokedown civ.

  16. Brad Tifman says:

    One of the most important books I ever read in my entire life is “The Great Inflation” by Guttmann. As I was reading it, it never crossed my teen mind that one day this historical treatise on the destruction of Germany’s economy, society, and country would come to serve in a few decades as a guide to the ongoing destruction of my America.

    • shandy says:

      I know few academics shared this. Dig deeper as the “bright insight” starts to reveal.

    • Cas127 says:

      And that the leadersh*t class of America embraced it to buy themselves a few more yrs of pathetic power.

    • Ensign_Nemo says:

      There is an even older book, “FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE:
      How It Came, What It Brought, and How It Ended” by Andrew Dickson White, which describes the same thing happening in France after the French Revolution and before Napoleon. It was written in 1896. It’s a short book, just 79 pages in this format

      It’s depressing to realize that humans don’t learn from history but instead keep repeating it. First Napoleon, then Hitler, and now who’s next???

  17. Mira says:

    In this era of FREE money

    Doesn’t that sound exciting !!
    Who would have thought.
    There will be a app for the phone.
    The personal TOUCH –
    4 every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around – Roger Miller.
    It’s something for the common man to think about.

  18. Alice says:

    One thing not mentioned; Many Trump voters overstocked everything post election so as to deliberately deny retail sales once Biden was sworn in.
    April is the first Biden economic quarter not shared with Trump. That’s when these targeted buyer’s strikes are supposed to really kick in.

    This is not only a political move, but is thrifty as it was obvious that inflation was going to raise prices tremendously. Plus there’s the safety factor of having everything you need, witness the programmed power outages and the Texas weather disaster where people lined up for four or more hours to buy water or something to eat.

    There is now so much stuff piled up in people’s homes across America that they can, except for fresh food, stop spending on things for a couple of years before the midterms or simply live off what they already have without the political angle. The power of the purse is mighty.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      I have piled up so much electricity and natural gas in my garage I can’t fit the car inside. Those are the things I use most and most often.

      • Kelly says:

        For Yahweh’s sake, use it up so you can buy more!

        President Bid>>Harr is depending on you to do your personal duty and keep the consumer economy going by impulse shopping every week.

        Don’t forget to update your car and your smartphone with a new cashless purchasing anticipatory tracking model, ideally bought on installment, to help keep currency flowing.

        Maddow’s List has many recommended models of “Live, Laugh-Love” framed artwork and cat play structures for your roomshare.

  19. Double Bluff says:

    The number of days in February plummeted 10 percent from January. Times are tough all over.

    • shandy says:

      Insightful comment Dub
      A number of my flowers are being made to count November and December 2020 as this year year to date.
      Then to add insult to injury my honest applicants are walking away from the fraud.
      I maybe helping to explain, encourage and show them the truth by giving each young flower a one hundred dollar bill for walking away.
      These kids are checking in on me and they are gonna be it!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The seasonal adjustments take selling days and other calendar shifts into account. All numbers cited here were “seasonally adjusted.”

  20. Lawefa says:

    I’m beginning to think fatigue with this continuous stimulus money is a real thing. When will it stop? It’s a joke.

  21. SpencerG says:

    It is the gasoline prices that are starting to pinch my wallet. I live not ten miles from a refinery (so there are no real transport costs to my gas station) and as of this week gasoline prices are up 50% since December. I know it is mostly just the Saudis cutting back production to boost prices… but I really need the oil frackers to turn on the spigots right about now.

    • Anthony A. says:

      You don’t get your fuel at the station directly from the refinery. The refinery pipelines the fuel to a bulk terminal and the terminal distributes it via tank truck to you gas station. The fuel has lots of miles on it before you pump it into your tank.

      Yes, it’s the Saudi’s and the Russian’s who are playing games with supply right now.

      • SpencerG says:

        Yes… I am aware that there is a middleman. But I think he is actually closer to me than the refinery. The gasoline price I paid yesterday for low octane gas was $2.48 per gallon if that tells you anything. But I was only paying $1.64 back in December.

  22. CRV says:

    I guess most people think getting stuff is better than keeping $$$ in the bank. If so, this means people don’t trust $$$ in the bank. This historically led to hyperinflation by abandonement of the currency. It’s gonna be tough.

    • Pablo says:

      In periods of 3% or more inflation, money spent earns a return of 3% or more, tax free, versus the IRS wanting a piece of the miserable interest the bank pays, that you then get to withdraw and spend on items that have gone up 3% or more. Spending you money on what you will buy in the future is a wise investement and immunizes your family from shortages and non-availability of products.

  23. Lisa_Hooker says:

    There is a simple solution to this conundrum now made possible. Make “stimulus” payments taxable. Then raise the payments, forcing everyone into higher and higher tax brackets, until the tax revenue is sufficient to pay the paltry interest (at these nice low rates) on the money that was borrowed to make the payments in the first place. Who says perpetual motion can’t be done? The national debt that we owe to ourselves and some offshore fools doesn’t matter.

    • FaithfulReader says:

      *Ahem* Also continental fools.

      You are spot-on today, Madame L_H; thank you.

  24. Our job to consume. Really America, which would you rather do, stand on the assembly line all day, or go out and have fun? I sometimes think all the people screaming for those jobs to come back from China, have never had one.

  25. Mira says:

    That’s the thing .. unemployment is a bitch ..
    Who is to blame for the swings in the jobs market ??
    Does the government of a nation need to regulate every which way to maintain stability of the work force ??
    Or is there a better way .. & no one has thought it yet ??
    Give them the DOLE & let the unemployed fend for themselves.
    Who give !
    I’ve got my own problems.
    And the unemployed struggle .. but consumption is down .. no more money .. more jobs go .. bla bla bla.
    Past civilisations disappeared in this fashion.
    Is this THE impossible problem that plagues mankind on planet earth !!
    Are we that DUMB that we can’t figure it out ??
    Or is it that we are too stingy to do so !!
    Free money .. are dollars that have lost their DIVINITY.
    Let’s move on from that point & get it together .. hey.

  26. Mira says:

    I’d like to say about the weather ..
    Existing Power Plants are not capable of producing the energy that we need.
    Every day the power usage grows.
    Look at the tech gadget sales & know this is true & especially of the government secretor .. why, they watch us like hawks ..
    & Wolf Richter told us about the brilliant upgrades to the snow fields.
    All this stuff requires energy to run & it will only become more demanding a plight.
    It’s great that Gas & Coal are abundant, cheap & preferred .. but realistically .. is that enough .. & what is ships stop sailing ??
    Solar Panels & storage batteries convert a free produce to energy & feed it back to the grid .. cheap .. there it is sold on AT TOP DOLLAR.
    Realistically .. don’t we need all the help that we can get ..

  27. Mira says:

    Daddy & the Princess

    ‘Daddy, I need some money please
    ‘Oh,
    ‘Yes daddy
    ‘What ever for darling ?
    ‘I would like to buy something daddy
    ‘And how much will this something cost darling ?
    ‘$80.00 daddy
    ‘That’s a lot of money dear
    ‘Daddy, you have a room full of money
    Daddy remains silent
    ‘They call it consumerism daddy & they say it’s good for the economy
    ‘Is that so
    Daddy has a little think
    ‘Very well darling
    And ..
    Daddy & the Princess quietly make their way to the vault.

  28. Mira says:

    Hi, it’s 1:14 AM Friday 19/03/2021 Victoria Australia time.
    At 1:10 AM the power went off for a few seconds .. only.
    It happened yesterday .. the day before .. 2 days before that .. a few weeks ago it lasted over 20 minutes.
    Things have been good for a long while & all is well with the world.
    But Australia’s usage demands are ever increasing.
    Is this the promise of things to come ??
    Is Corporate thinking akin to Aesop’s grasshopper.

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