Retail sales rose in November in a sign that steady job creation is adding momentum to consumer spending in the fourth quarter.
Sales rose 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.5 percent.
A separate measure of sales that strips out automobiles, gasoline and building materials rose a more healthy 0.5 percent.
That reading more closely follows the government's gauge of consumer spending, which is a major component of economic growth. These so-called core retail sales were flat in October, a slight upward revision from the previously reported decline of 0.1 percent.
Economists had expected a 0.4 percent increase in core sales in November.
The rise in overall sales was tempered by a 4 percent decline in receipts at gasoline stations, the biggest drop since December 2008.
The Commerce Department said it had received indications from companies that superstorm Sandy had both positive and negative effects on November's sales data.
Motor vehicle sales rose 1.4 percent. Sales at electronics stores jumped 2.5 percent, while mail-order and Internet sales jumped 3 percent.