US retail sales jumped 0.6 percent in July

WASHINGTON (AP) Consumers went out shopping in a big way in July, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in seven months.

The Commerce Department says retail sales advanced 0.6 percent last month, the best showing since a gain of 0.9 percent last December. For most of this year, retail sales have been lackluster, including a decline in May of 0.2 percent and a modest 0.3 percent June gain.

Sales got a boost in July from a 1.2 percent jump in auto sales, the strongest result since December. There were sales gains in other areas including furniture stores, hardware stores and restaurants.

Consumer spending accounts for around 70 percent of economic activity. The strong advance in retail sales in July is a good sign for overall economic growth.