September retail sales rise for third consecutive month

Washington, D.C. The Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales rose 0.6% in September, the third month in a row of sales gains. In August, sales rose 0.7%, the biggest advance since March.

Excluding autos, sales rose 0.4% in September after a 1% August gain. Auto sales, which had fallen 0.5% in August, rose 1.6% in September, the best showing since March.

The furniture category had a strong showing, as furniture retail sales rose 0.5%, the best showing since July. Electronic and appliance stores posted a 1.5% rise, the best since February. Sales at hardware stores rose 0.6%, the biggest increase since April.

Sales at general merchandise stores, which includes department stores and the big discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target, were flat in September. But the zero gain followed a 0.5% jump in August, which had been fueled by back-to-school shopping and discounting by many retailers.

Sales at specialty clothing stores dropped 0.2% in August after posting a 0.5% rise in July.

Even with the solid overall gain in September, economists remain concerned that consumer spending will not rebound until households have the income growth to spend at a faster pace. And the income growth will not come until businesses start hiring back laid-off workers at a faster pace.

Unemployment has been at or above 9.5% for a year and two months, the longest stretch since the Great Depression.