Despite predictions that the 2013 holiday shopping season might be the weakest in five years, data released Thursday shows otherwise – a sharp uptick in retail sales growth over last year’s figures.

MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks customer spending during the holiday shopping season, said sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 rose 2.3% over the prior year, versus 0.7% from 2012 to 2011, Reuters reported.

"It was actually a Merry Christmas for retailers," Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at MasterCard Advisors, told Reuters. Quinlan said jewelry was the best-performing category during the season.

Stubbornly high unemployment in the U.S. had forecasters a month ago predicting poor holiday sales. But the labor reports from the past two months – October and November – were strong: each saw more than 200,000 jobs added to the economy, and unemployment fell to 7%.

And consumer sentiment has remained surprisingly strong despite the high unemployment rate and a government shutdown in October that also briefly threatened a default by the U.S. on its debts.

Consumers apparently responded to the stronger labor figures and took the Washington, D.C., dysfunction in stride, spending freely on holiday gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

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