Holiday sales expected to be up 3.6 percent

Americans are expected to spend at a faster clip than last year for the critical holiday season, helped by an economy that continues to pick up, according to the nation's largest retail industry trade group.

The National Retail Federation is forecasting holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, much better than the 3 percent growth seen in the year-ago period.

The figure is much higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent and above the 3.4 percent growth seen since the recovery began in 2009. The dollar figure excludes sales from autos, gas and restaurants but includes online sales. That area is expected to rise 7 percent to 10 percent.

Holiday sales account for nearly 20 percent of annual retail industry sales.