NEW YORK (AP) — Retail sales rose strongly in September, the fifth consecutive month of growth, as Americans spent more on clothing, cars and sporting goods.
The U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales jumped 1.9% last month. That’s much better than the 0.8% rise economists expected. And it’s up from an increase of 0.6% in August.
Retail sales have been recovering since plunging in the spring as stores and malls were ordered closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Much of last month’s growth came from clothing stores, where sales rose 11%. At auto dealerships and auto part shops, sales were up 3.6%. And those looking to go camping or buy exercise equipment for their homes sent sales at sporting goods stores up 5.7%.
Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity, and is watched closely to gauge the country’s economic health.
Friday’s retail sales report covers only about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays are not included in the report. All of those types of businesses have been badly hurt by the pandemic.