3 Reasons Americans Are Shopping

US retail sales rose 5.7% in April, after a 7.8% jump in March, which was the best year-over-year improvement since August 2005 at the peak of the housing boom. But unemployment is near 10 percent. Why are Americans shopping? Three quick theories.

1) People are skipping mortgage payments to go to the mall. Yep, it's a theory.

2) Low prices. The upside of really, really low inflation -- April saw the smallest 12-month increase in consumer prices since 1966 -- is that stuff is cheap if you have money to spend. Mass market retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot both slashed prices through March on thousands of products. Falling energy prices, helped along by trouble in Europe, also free up wallet space.

3) The stock market. Ben Steverman at BusinessWeek reports: "Fidelity Investments said May 19 its average account balance rose more than 55 percent from Mar. 9, 2009--the market's lowest point last year--to Mar. 9, 2010."

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In