WASHINGTON (CN) - Retail sales grew by 0.3 percent last month, despite predictions of decline, the Census Bureau announced Friday. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said the numbers show "the growing willingness of consumers to spend, and it's another welcome sign of economic recovery."
Spending increased to $355.5 billion last month, a sign that Americans are growing more confident in the economy.
Spending rose across the board, reinforcing reports last week that last month stores posted their strongest gains since late 2007. Electronics grew by 3.7 percent, clothing by 0.6 percent and building materials by 0.5 percent. The gains bring growth over the last year to almost 4 percent.
The new figure surpasses predictions by economists who, mindful of the heavy snowstorms and safety concerns over Toyota cars, said the retail industry would shrink by 0.3 percent.
Without including cars sales, which fell 2 percent last month, retail growth moved to a higher 0.8 percent.
The February figures are preliminary. The 0.5 percent growth reported for January was revised to indicate weaker sales, with 0.1 percent growth.
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