U.S. retail sales, fueled by motor-vehicle sales, rose 5.1 percent in November from a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
November sales were $449.3 billion, up 0.7 percent from October, the department said.
The boost from September to October was revised up to 0.5 percent, from a 0.3 percent increase.
November’s growth — the most in eight months — was boosted by a 9.5 percent surge in sales from auto and other motor-vehicle dealers. If that category is stripped out, retail sales grew by 0.5 percent — the same as October.
Retail sales in November can be a gauge of consumer sentiment and retail performance for the overall season — a make-or-break period when retailers can sometimes make 40 percent of their annual sales. Consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of the economy.
The growth last month is welcome news for retailers, who had seen sales drop 11 percent and traffic fall by more than 5 percent over the Black Friday weekend, which started on Thanksgiving and ran through Sunday.
Shoppers were given a boost by falling gasoline prices, which pushed sales at gas stations down 0.8 percent.
Electronics and appliance stores — always a popular category during Black Friday sales — showed a 0.9 percent increase. Department-store sales were up 1 percent. The retail-sales figures do not include Cyber Monday, which fell in December this year.
Furniture sales rose 0.5 percent. Consumers also spent 1.4 percent more than the previous month on building materials and garden supplies.