Non-auto retail sales for October, as reported by the Department of Commerce, were up for the third consecutive month, a "welcome sign that consumer angst continues to ease," says Casey Chroust, executive vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Excluding auto sales, retail sales were up 0.2 percent in October. Retail sales are up by 1.5 percent over the past three months and up by more than 3 percent since last December during the worst part of the financial crisis.
"October sales gains among core retail segments suggest consumer activity is rising as shoppers return to stores," Chroust says.
Still, the recovery is fragile, and housing in particular remains a lagging sector as shown by continued declines in retail sales of home furnishings and building materials. Other economic indicators show an economy that has begun to lift off the bottom. Monthly same-store sales released earlier this month by numerous retailers reported positive news as sales edged upward over October 2008. Increased imports and exports in September likewise indicate a strengthening of demand in the United States and in its trading partners. The labor market remains weak, but declining numbers of initial claims for unemployment insurance suggest that the jobs picture is slowly moving toward stabilization. Finally, recent surveys of purchasing managers in both manufacturers and in services firms suggest an improved economic outlook going forward.
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