Photo: Evan Lockridge

Photo: Evan Lockridge

Retail sales were brisk in November, posting the biggest increase in eight months, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures released Thursday.

The 0.7% increase from the month before is well above what many analysts were expecting.

The Department also revised October retail sales numbers from September to a 0.5% gain, up from an earlier reported 0.3% increase.

The November performance is 5.1% higher than retail sales in November 2013.

Leading the increase was a 9.5% increase in sales at auto and other vehicle dealers from a year earlier, while non-store retailers saw an 8.7% increase in sales. Overall sales excluding autos, building materials, food and fuel increased 0.6% in November from the month before following a 0.5% increase in October.

Due to November’s increase and October’s revision, the three-month average rose from a 0.3% increase to 0.4% jump.

“After four months of price declines at the pump, consumers finally appear to be at least modestly more willing to increase spending above a dilapidated 0.3% average pace,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee. “A welcome sign for retailers, against a backdrop of still minimum wage pressures, consumers are unlikely to ramp up spending beyond this morning's boost through the end of the year, keeping consumption relatively on pace with the third quarter.”

While these latest numbers are far from showing a robust spending trend, she said, two back-to-back reports of above-trend growth after months of waning momentum since March, it appears consumers were on firmer footing at the start of the fourth quarter than previously reported.

Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Business Contributing Editor

Trucking journalist since 1990, in the news business since early ‘80s.