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Retail Industry: Vaccination Key To Further Economic Recovery

As stores like Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot require masks again for employees, the nation’s biggest retail trade association says vaccination is key to further economic recovery.

The National Retail Federation predicts sales this year will be 10% to 13% higher than last year. Jack Kleinheinz, the group’s chief economist, said government fiscal policy and the rollout of vaccines are big drivers.

“Now these drivers are helping us, but they are fading,” he said. “Stimulus checks have been spent or tucked away and the pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably.”

The latest Blue Chip Economic Indicators report says the biggest threat to global growth is an uneven rollout of vaccines and the emergence of more COVID-19 variants.   

“By no means has the economy fully recovered,” Kleinheinz said. “You know there’s approximately 7 million fewer workers on payroll today than in February 2020. Unemployment is at 5.9% compared to the half-century low of 3.5% that we saw before the downturn.”

He said a lack of labor, product shortages and supply chain disruptions are contributing to higher prices that could last another year.

In his August economic review for the National Retail Federation, Kleinheinze wrote: “There has been a pickup in COVID-19 cases across the United States tied to the delta variant but there is no evidence that the variant is impacting consumer behavior so far. Increased infection rates and renewed mask mandates might have an impact, but at this point consumer activity during the third quarter is continuing to resemble pre-pandemic behavior as the reopening of stores and the economy progresses.”

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.