Household spending stays strong into May

  • Card transactions held firm at 30% above pre-COVID (2019) levels in April—with strong momentum carrying into May.
  • High contact services spending is closing the gap with already strong goods purchases as shoppers opt for more visits to restaurants and hotels.
  • Little evidence exists to suggest higher inflation is undermining spending momentum on essential items like groceries.
  • But higher gas prices are exacting a hefty toll at the pump, particularly as Canadians travel more, and show a greater interest in cross-border travel.


  • Canadian household spending remains elevated in April, climbing 30% above pre-COVID levels.
  • Goods sales remained strong, driven by increases in clothing, furniture and grocery purchases.
  • On the services side, spending on travel and hospitality continues to surge back as the economic impact of the pandemic subsides.
  • Higher food prices have yet to curb consumer appetites for dining out. Both the number of transactions and amount spent on restaurants is up.


  • Aggregate spending is powering into spring, holding ~ 30% above pre-shock (2019) levels—and more than 10 percentage points above January when Omicron restrictions weighed on activity.
  • A global increase in oil prices pushed up the average sales amount at gas stations, but the broader lift in spending is not just a result of inflation. The number of transactions has also increased.
  • Higher prices have pushed up ‘non-discretionary’ costs (food, shelter, gasoline, etc.), but discretionary travel and hospitality spending continues to strengthen.
  • Travel spending surged back above pre-pandemic levels as more families invested in March Break holidays.


  • Travel spending touched pre-COVID levels for the first time as pandemic restrictions eased.
  • The domestic tourism recovery continues to outpace international travel but Canadian spending on restaurants and hotels abroad has also been rising.
  • Spending on services overall continued to recover alongside another increase in purchases of physical merchandise.
  • Surging prices and geopolitical uncertainty from the Russian invasion of Ukraine are headwinds for the economy. But firmer job markets, easing COVID-19 restrictions, and pent-up demand for travel/hospitality services are supporting strong near-term spending.


  • Overall household spending quickly shook off the impact of the new COVID-19 variant and is now nearing pre-Omicron peak growth rates.
  • Travel spending rebounded after plunging in December and January.
  • Shopping at retail outlets built on late January momentum, and is tracking a gain in February.
  • The reopening of indoor dining rooms in Quebec and Ontario (in time for Valentine’s Day) allowed a rapid bounce back in restaurant sales.
  • The post-Omicron spending surge aligns with views that the macroeconomic impact of Omicron will be smaller and shorter-lived than previous waves, leaving the Bank of Canada free to begin hiking interest rates on March 2.


See the archived COVID Consumer Spending Tracker here.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.