U.S. Retail Sales Climb in August for Third Straight Month

Sales at retail stores across the country rose in August for the third month in a row in another display of the economy’s resilience.

Retail sales are a big part of consumer spending and typically increase when the economy improves and Americans feel more confident to spend. Sales have exceeded precrisis levels since June, a remarkable turnaround that few economists would have predicted early in the pandemic.

Sales rose 0.2% at auto dealers, which account for about one-fifth of all retail spending. Gas station receipts also increased 0.4%, largely reflecting an increase in the cost of gasoline.

Sales rose 4.7% at bars and restaurants as people went out to eat more or ordered more takeout. Higher spending at restaurants even in the face of ongoing limits on indoor seating is a good sign. People tend to spend less at restaurants when they are more worried about the economy.

Sales rose more modestly at home centers, pharmacies, electronic and appliance stores and clothing outlets.