Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity, and July is the first month in the year’s third quarter. The economy grew at a 2.5 percent clip in the second quarter, according to the most recent government estimate.
Purchases of items like food, medication and clothing increased 0.5 percent in July, compared to 0.1 percent in June.
Those spending figures came as Commerce also found that private and government salaries both declined in July. Commerce said that government staffers lost $7.7 billion in salary last month to furloughs stemming from across-the-board spending cuts.
Private-sector salaries also declined by some $15 billion in July, after a $31 billion increase in June.
The Commerce figures also come as the Federal Reserve is considering when to pull back on its bond-buying program.