Despite lingering high unemployment and an uncertain economy, Americans spent more while shopping last month.
The Commerce Department reported on Friday that retail sales in August increased 0.9%. That topped the 0.7% rise forecast by economists, and marked the largest gain in retail sales in six months, Reuters noted.
However, the government lowered its estimate of retail sales growth in July to 0.6%, down from 0.8%. Prior to July, retail sales had fallen for three months. August marked the second straight monthly rise.
The jump in retail sales was driven mostly by car purchases and escalating gas prices. Last month, automobile sales rose 1.3%, a significant increase compared to July’s 0.1% gain, while gasoline sales climbed 5.5%, accelerated by an average increase of 28 cents per gallon during the month.
By contrast, gasoline sales rose just 0.4% in July.
Deducting automobile, building supplies and gas sales, “core” retail sales in August slipped by 0.1%, compared to a 0.8% gain in July.
Sales of clothing, electronics and appliances fell last month, while building and garden supplies increased 1%. Book, music and sporting goods sales were unchanged.