NEW YORK—Americans hit the malls in November, the start of the 2011 holiday shopping season, as retail sales increased for the sixth consecutive month.
According to the Department of Commerce on Tuesday, retail sales in the United States increased by 0.2 percent in November. The main drivers of the increase were higher sales of electronics, appliances, apparel, and automobiles. Sales at grocery stores and gas stations declined.
While the growth is lower than the 0.6 percent recorded in October, it is nevertheless a sign of U.S. economic growth. Consumer spending typically drives more than 50 percent of the nation’s GDP.
November was a good month for retailers, as consumers turned out in droves on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The National Retail Federation said that over Black Friday weekend, consumers spent $52.4 billion. The International Council of Shopping Centers said on Tuesday that overall sales at 21 chain stores it tracks rose in November. The National Federation of Independent Business said this week that an index tracking optimism of small businesses across the nation rose last month.
Automobile dealerships received a rare boost last month, traditionally a weak month for auto sales. Nissan, Ford, and Chrysler all reported double-digit sales gains in November due to steep discounts offered by the companies.
The growth has also boosted hiring, although part of that is seasonal. Employers added 120,000 net jobs in November, which is the fifth consecutive month the economy has gained more than 100,000 jobs.
Despite the gain, economists, who generally expected gains of 0.5 percent or more, view the 0.2 percent increase as a disappointment. While sales at many stores are higher, consumers may finally be living within their means.