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US retail sales up for a fifth consecutive month in September

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US retail sales jumped 1.9% last month, the US Department of Commerce said. This is more than double what economists expected.

NEW YORK Retail sales rose sharply in September, the fifth consecutive month of growth, as Americans spent more on clothing, cars and sporting goods.

US retail sales jumped 1.9% last month, the US Department of Commerce said on Friday. This is more than double what economists expected. And that’s up from the 0.6% increase in August.

Americans flocked to stores in September, BMO Capital Markets analyst Sal Guatieri said in a note to investors, adding that they were buying just about everything in sight, especially clothing.

Clothing store sales rose 11%, a large part of September’s overall growth. Even department store sales, which have been out of fashion with shoppers for years, rose 9.7% last month.

At car dealerships and auto parts stores, sales increased 3.6%. And those looking to go camping or buy exercise equipment for their home saw a 5.7% increase in sales at sporting goods stores.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all US economic activity and is closely watched to assess the country’s economic health.

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Retail sales have rebounded since falling in the spring, as stores and malls were closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And the spending continued even after more than 20 million unemployed Americans lost a $ 600 increase in their weekly unemployment checks at the end of July.

Friday’s retail sales report only covers about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays are not included in the report. All of these types of businesses have been severely affected by the pandemic.

It remains to be seen if people will continue to shop. The unemployment rate is still high, at 7.8% last month. Some economists say more federal checks for unemployed Americans are needed to support spending. And some say the increase in COVID-19 cases could keep people away from stores.

Retailers are already facing a holiday season like no other.

Best Buy, Target and Walmart first offered holiday deals in mid-October, building on Amazon, which hosted its annual Prime Day sales event on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Stores are hoping October’s offers will jumpstart holiday shopping early and keep crowds away from their stores in November and December, averting a potentially dangerous situation during a pandemic.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said this week it would run Black Friday deals on three weekends in November instead of just one day after Thanksgiving.

RELATED: Walmart to Spread Deals to Avoid Black Friday Crowds

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The virus could also change the way people shop, especially if they forgo travel to see family and friends while on vacation.

Joyce Alcantara, who manages social media accounts for a San Francisco museum, says she will likely buy fewer gifts this year, removing coworkers, friends or family she doesn’t see in person. And for the freebies it buys, Alcantara plans to skip the big national chains and go to neighborhood stores that have been more severely affected by the pandemic.

I’d rather use my money to support small businesses, she said.

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