Economy Check: Retail Sales Surge

Data Shows More Americans Spending Money Online

Economy CheckStrengthened by Black Friday, retail sales rose 0.7% in November, the largest jump in five months, according to the Commerce Department. Core sales, which don’t include automobiles, food services and gasoline, increased 0.5% last month after a 0.7% rise in October. Retail sales for October were also revised upward to 0.6%.

A closer look at the numbers shows sales at auto and parts dealers improved 1.8%, while receipts at electronics and appliance stores were up 1.1% in November. Furniture stores increased sales by 1.1% and garden equipment centers saw revenue gains of 1.8%. Those increases offset a 1.1% drop in gasoline sales and a 0.2% decline in apparel revenues.

Data also shows more Americans are spending money online and less money at traditional brick and mortar stores. Internet and catalog sales rose 2.2% last month, the highest increase in nearly 18 months. Meanwhile, sales were weak at some retail chains, especially grocery stores. Department of Commerce figures show gains at department stores and sporting goods stores were tepid at best last month.

Still, economists believe Q4 consumer spending will move higher, advancing from third-quarter numbers that demonstrated the weakest gains in four years. Analysts are generally forecasting consumer spending will rise by 3% year-over-year in Q4, with a 2013 GDP jump of at least 2%.