Did you get out and shop in April?

Retail sales numbers released today show improving consumer confidence and more spending in stores.

The National Retail Federation reported a 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted sales gain from March to April, excluding autos, gas stations and restaurants, and a 3.9 percent gain compared with April 2012. The U.S. Department of Commerce said total retail and food service sales – which do include autos, gas stations and restaurants – grew 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis in April and 3.7 percent year-over-year.

The slight bump in spending was unexpected as consumers have been adjusting to the end of payroll tax cuts, with workers in some income brackets having $1,000 to $1,500 more taken from their paychecks each year. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected April store sales to decrease 0.3 percent.

The retail trade group says consumers are feeling more confident, thanks to strengthening jobs data, rising housing prices and a surging stock market.

“In the face of higher taxes and sequester, consumers provided the economy a bit of a reprieve this month,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

The sales data is encouraging, said Jack Kleinhenz, the trade group’s chief economist. But he warned that it might not mean a healthier second quarter.

“NRF continues to forecast moderate sales growth for the year,” Kleinhenz said.

Also from the NRF’s April sales report, on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis:

- Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 1.2 percent.

- Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 0.8 percent.

- Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales were flat.

- General merchandise stores’ sales increased 1.0 percent.

- Health and personal care stores’ sales decreased 0.1 percent.

- Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.5 percent.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com