We learned this morning that retail sales continued to rise in September after climbing higher than expected in August as well—an increase of 14 percent compared to this time last year, and further evidence of an economy that is returning to normal. This progress is being felt broadly across our economy; department stores, book stores, furniture stores, and a wide array of other retailers all saw a substantial uptick in sales, while restaurants and bars are now up 30 percent over last year and 9 percent above their pre-pandemic levels.
This progress builds on yesterday’s news that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment has fallen below 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic began—a drop of more than 60 percent since I took office, and the lowest weekly figure since March 14, 2020. The signs are clear that, despite the global challenges caused by the Delta variant, our economy is on the right track. Vaccination requirements have helped us continue to bring down the number of eligible unvaccinated Americans, from nearly 100 million in July to 66 million today. That is a major reason why COVID-19 cases and unemployment are on the decline—while jobs, wages, and retail sales are all rising.
It is imperative that we take action now to ensure that the historic recovery we are experiencing today does not simply lead to a short-term boost, but that it lays the foundation for long-term prosperity. To carry this momentum forward and build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, we must listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people and pass both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Build Back Better Act.