Retail sales rose 0.5% in March amid the inflation jump; import prices hit the highest in 11 years

Customers pushing shopping baskets shop at a supermarket on April 12, 2022 in San Mateo County, California.

Liu Guanguan | China News Service | Getty Images

Consumers continued to spend in March, although inflation rose to its highest level since late 1981, according to government data released Thursday.

Retail sales rose 0.5% from the previous month, slightly less than the Dow Jones estimate of 0.6% and a slowdown from the upward increase of 0.8% in February.

The measure resulted in inflation rising 1.2% for the month measured by the consumer price index.

Retail sales data are not adjusted for inflation. Consequently, the biggest gain in sales was for the game of the month at petrol stations, which saw an increase of 8.9% in sales as petrol prices rose 18.3% during the period. The sector has seen sales of 37% over the past year.

In contrast, online sales fell sharply, falling 6.4% for the month. General merchandise stores increased by 5.4%, sports and electronics stores both increased by 3.3%, and sales in food and beverage stores as well as bars and restaurants increased 1%.

Retail sales rose by just 6.9% from a year ago, a period in which CPI inflation rose by 8.5%, the highest level since December 1981.

In other economic data, initial unemployment applications rose to 185,000 for the week ending April 9, an increase of 18,000 from the previous week and above the estimate of 172,000. Continued claims, which run one week after the headline figure, fell by 48,000 to 1.475 million.

Inflation also continued to hit imports, with prices rising by 2.6%, the largest monthly increase since April 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. It was even higher than the estimate of 2.2%.

On a 12-month basis, import prices increased by 12.5%, the largest increase since September 2011.

Correction: The consumer price index rose 1.2% in March. An earlier version failed the percentage.

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