WASHINGTON - Thanks to solid job creation, Americans spent more at retailers in February despite smaller paychecks. The surprisingly strong increase helped allay fears that higher Social Security taxes and gasoline prices might chill spending early this year.
Much of the increase in February retail sales compared with January reflected the higher gas prices. But even excluding the volatile categories of gas, autos, and building supply stores, so-called core retail sales rose strongly.
Economists were encouraged by the healthier-than-expected numbers from the Commerce Department on Wednesday. Afterward, some revised their estimates of U.S. economic growth for the January-March quarter.