Two traditional measures of business activity—retail sales and small business confidence—both showed strong evidence of improvement in February.
The U.S. Commerce Dept. estimated that February’s retail sales rose 1.1 percent over January’s numbers and 6.5 percent over February 2011. That’s the highest gain recorded in more than five months.
The National Retail Federation release similar numbers, finding that retail sales were up 8.6 percent over last year—the 20th straight month they had risen. It also estimated they had risen 0.5 percent over January.
The organization forecasts retail sales will increase 3.4 percent overall in 2012.
The Small Business Optimism Index, calculated by the National Federation of Independent Business, also gained 0.4 points in February, to reach 94.3, marking six months of consecutive gains. That is the second highest reading since December 2007—the beginning of the recession.
At least one jeweler says he’s noticing the improvement in the economy.
“I find that during most election years, we see a boost in business due to the upsurge in the economy,” says Nicholas Ferro of N.T. Ferro Jewelers in Woodstock, Vt. “Consumers have put off buying luxury items such as jewelry in previous years. However, now they are becoming more confident.”