Retail sales up 0.3% in Aug. from July amid inflation

NEW YORK (AP): Americans picked up their spending a bit in August from July even as surging inflation on household goods, rent and food took a toll on family budgets.

U.S. retail sales rose an unexpected 0.3% last month after the fell 0.4% in July, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Excluding business at gas stations, sales rose 0.8%.

Sales at grocery stores rose 0.5% , helped by rising prices in food. Business at restaurants rose 1.1%, while online sales fell 0.7%. Business at clothing stores rose 0.4% while sales at furniture stores fell 1.3%.

Consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. economic activity and Americans have remained mostly resilient even with inflation near a four-decade high, increasing economic uncertainties and the surging costs of mortgages or borrowing money. Overall spending has slowed, however, and it has shifted increasingly toward necessities like food, and away from electronics, furniture, new clothes and other non- necessities.

The government’s monthly report on retail sales covers about a third of all consumer purchases and doesn’t include spending on most services, ranging from plane fares and apartment rents to movie tickets and doctor visits. In recent months, Americans have been shifting their purchases away from physical goods and more toward travel, hotel stays and plane trips.