WASHINGTON -- Shoppers who disappeared from the stores in June returned in July, snapping up cars and other big-ticket items while raising hopes the worrisome economic slowdown in the early summer will not last long.
The Commerce Department reported yesterday that retail sales rebounded by 0.7 percent last month. Consumer demand for autos was strong with the return of attractive incentive offers from dealers.
In other good news, the Labor Department reported the number of laid-off workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to 333,000, the smallest total in five weeks.
Economists said both reports should help relieve worries that an early summer slowdown could broaden into a more serious threat to the economic recovery.
That concern was heightened by last Friday's report that the economy created just 32,000 jobs in July, far below the 200,000-plus jobs analysts expected.
Analysts said July's gain and June's smaller decline presented a more comforting picture that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity, was not threatening to collapse.