Retail sales dropped more than 16 percent in April as coronavirus seized economy

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U.S. retail sales plunged more than 16 percent in April as COVID-19 and the measures to contain it closed thousands of stores across the country and derailed the economy, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

Retail sales fell 16.4 percent in April from March’s total and 21.6 percent from April 2019 levels, stripping the U.S. economy of a critical source of growth. Consumer sales on the whole make up roughly two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic products, and the retail industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

The U.S. economy has lost at least 21.4 million jobs since March and more than 36 million Americans have filed new claims for unemployment benefits as the pandemic forced thousands of businesses to close or restrict operations. Unemployment spiked to 14.7 percent in April, according to the Labor Department, but may actually be closer to 20 percent per the projections of economists.