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A Roller Coaster of Consumer Spending

Michigan’s economic recovery is due in part to Michiganders being willing to part with their cash, according to some economists.

“Consumer spending in the state has really held up well,” Michael McWilliams, a state economic forecaster with the University of Michigan, said in an August interview.

During the early months of the shutdown, state spending dropped. However, in August Michigan spending exceeded where it was in January. Conversely, in August spending nationwide dipped below where it was in January of this year, according to McWilliams.

McWilliams attributed the bounce to the federal coronavirus relief bill pumping $40 billion into the state’s economy. That includes the $600 in extra weekly unemployment insurance.

“That really, really helped keep consumer spending up,” he said.

Measuring a retailer’s heartbeat depends on its sector and merchandise, according to Meegan Holland of the Michigan Retailers Association. Some tourism-related businesses have done exceptionally well, she said.

“Some have said they’ve had the best summer ever,” she said.

Groceries, hardware stores and companies that sell outdoor adventure sports equipment are thriving, she said.

Other businesses that depend on items such as back-to-school shopping may not fare as well, she said.

To that end, the Michigan Retailers Association reported an almost 12% drop from July to August on its retail index survey, which measures retail performance. The association’s message in a September news release quoting CEO Bill Hallan was one of weathering the storm.

“We’ll likely see this roller coaster for a while as retailers figure out how to adapt to changing consumer shopping habits,” he said.

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