By Vicki Needham - 10/14/11 03:45 PM EDT
Finally some good news for the struggling economy: Consumers spent more in September.
Retail sales were $395.5 billion, a 1.1 percent increase from August, as spending was up on autos, clothing, electronics and furniture as well as at food and drinking establishments, the Commerce Department said Friday.
“The surge in retail sales this September reflects improving consumer confidence,” acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said.
Motor vehicle and parts sales jumped 3.6 percent. Sales excluding automotive dealers jumped 0.6 percent, higher than private-sector expectations of a 0.3 percent rise. In addition, August sales were revised up from an initial report of no change to a 0.3 percent increase.
The increase is 8.1 percent higher than last year, and total sales for the July-through-September period were up 8 percent from the same period a year ago.
The August figures were revised upward from virtually unchanged to 0.3 percent.
Gasoline stations’ sales were up 20.3 percent from September 2010, and nonstore retailers’ sales were up 10.1 percent from last year, according to the Commerce report.
In September, auto sales were up 3.6 percent, and even without autos, sales increased 0.6 percent, ahead of expectations.
Consumer spending is a main driver of the economy — it represents 70 percent of economic activity — but has been sluggish as stock markets seesawed and talk of a second recession increased.