WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. retail sales likely suffered a record drop in March as mandatory business closures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak depressed demand for a range of goods, setting up consumer spending for its worst decline in decades.
The report from the Commerce Department on Wednesday would come as millions of Americans are thrown out of work, and strengthen economists’ conviction that the economy is in deep recession. States and local governments have issued “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders affecting more than 90% of Americans to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, and abruptly stopping the country.
“The economy is almost in free fall,” said Sung Won Sohn, a business economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “We will see the bottom when the coronavirus infection rates stabilize. It’s going to be a pretty deep bottom from which to come up.”