Holiday Spending Increased, Defying Fears of a Decline

Despite lingering inflation, Americans increased their spending this holiday season, early data shows. That comes as a big relief for retailers that had spent much of the year fearing the economy would soon weaken and consumer spending would fall.

Retail sales increased 3.1 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data Mastercard released on Tuesday. The credit card company’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation.

Spending increased across many categories, with restaurants experiencing one of the largest jumps, 7.8 percent. Apparel increased 2.4 percent, and groceries also had gains.

The holiday sales figures, driven by a healthy labor market and wage gains, suggests that the economy remains strong. The Federal Reserve’s campaign to rein in high inflation by raising interest rates over the last few years has slowed the economy, but many economists believe a so-called soft landing is within reach.

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