Americans spent more money at retailers in September — a buying surge helped in part by the launch of the latest iPhone.

Retail sales jumped 1.1 percent last month, producing the best two months of sales in two years, according to figures released Monday by the Commerce Department.

The increase comes only 10 days after a report that unemployment fell to its lowest level since President Obama took office. And it follows a survey last week by the University of Michigan that showed consumer confidence rose in early October to a five-year high.

Stocks climbed after the retail report (as noted here on TheBlaze). The Dow Jones industrial average gained 95 points to close up at 13,424. Broader indexes also rose.

The retail sales report is the government’s first monthly look at consumer spending. Consumer spending is critical, obviously, because it drives almost 70 percent of economic activity.

In September, retailers saw gains in almost every major category. That contrasted with August’s retail sales, which rose almost entirely on the strength of auto sales and higher gas prices.
Sales of electronics and appliances last month increased 4.5 percent, in part because of iPhone sales. Sales at auto dealers increased 1.3 percent. Building materials and garden supplies, furniture, and clothing sales all gained, too.

Some of the September increase also reflected higher food and swelling gas prices. If those prices continue to rise, consumers could cut back elsewhere, and that could keep growth from accelerating.

Economic growth has been anemic in the first half of the year, held back by weaker consumer spending.

“The latest figures suggest consumers are shaking off high unemployment and the threat of tax increases that could come next year if Congress fails to reach a deal to prevent the economy from going over the ‘fiscal cliff,’” the Associated Press theorizes.

That or we’ve simply given up. That’s one way to explain all the big-ticket purchases made last month.

Home sales are up from last year, which has lifted home prices. U.S. auto companies reported that sales rose 13 percent in September from a year earlier to nearly 1.2 million. Analysts think sales could hit 14.3 million this year, up from 12.8 million last year.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Front page photo courtesy the AP.