The Economy: November retail sales were up 6 percent over a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation.
The numbers were strong for both brick-and-mortar and online sales. Online and other non-store sales grew 10.5 percent over a year ago, the group said this week.
“This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation and a heathy balance sheet along with elevated consumer confidence has led to solid holiday spending by American households.”
Among the strongest sectors is building materials and garden supplies stores, which have seen an 11.2 percent increase over November of last year. Another strong sector is furniture and home furnishings sales, up 8.6 percent year-over-year.
One downside was in the numbers for general merchandise stores. Sales were flat year over year for that sector, but increased across the range of most other sectors.
NRF has forecast that holiday sales – November and December – would increase between 3.6 percent and 4 percent over last year.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, traditionally thought of as the start of the holiday-buying season, saw more shoppers, about 10 million more than last year.
The higher sales were accompanied by higher retail employment in November than in October, NRF said. That reflects some of the holiday hiring stores typically do.
An interesting side note, however: the nature of “retail” work is shifting, with fewer in-store jobs like cashier, and more jobs in warehouse-type facilities where online orders are filled. That skews federal labor data, because those workers aren’t counted in the “retail” workforce, making the sector seem to have fewer jobs than it does, retail organizations argue.