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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2020 file photo, a woman carries shopping bags in New York. The National Retail Federation expects that holiday sales gain could shatter last year’s record-breaking season even as a snarled global supply chain slows the flow of goods and results in higher prices for broad range of items. The nation's largest retail trade group said Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021 it predicts that sales for the November and December period will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% to $843.4 billion and $859 billion. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many Americans have taken a darker view of the economy as inflation has worsened. Yet so far, they appear no less willing to spend freely at retailers — an encouraging sign for the crucial holiday shopping season.

Buoyed by solid hiring, healthy pay gains and substantial savings stemming in part from government stimulus checks and other relief, Americans ramped up their spending at retail stores and online shops last month. Some of the increase reflected the impact of higher prices, and there were signs that Americans have started to seek out cheaper options.

Yet the October gain the government reported Tuesday was solid enough for most economists to anticipate holiday shopping jumping by a record amount this year.

The data also illustrates a key factor behind the supply chain backups that have left dozens of ships waiting to unload at U.S. ports: Americans are buying a tremendous amount of goods, from appliances to electronics to furniture.

Retail and food service sales have surged 16.3 percent compared with a year ago. That is a record high excluding several months during the spring when federal stimulus checks caused sharp spikes in spending.

From September to October, retail sales jumped 1.7 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was the biggest month-to-month gain since March and was up from a 0.8 percent increase from August to September.

The increase occurred just as retailers face a host of challenges. Many have had to sharply raise pay to find and keep workers, thereby increasing their labor costs. And some are scrambling amid overwhelmed supply chains to keep their shelves stocked.

“Even with all these problems, we’re still on track here for a banner year,” said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo.

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