The government dished out some mixed economic news Thursday, saying retail sales rose a better-than-expected 0.9% last month while first-time claims for unemployment benefits remained stubbornly high.
The Commerce Department's retail sales number was slightly better than the 0.7% increase economists had forecast. Excluding autos, sales were up 0.4%, also slightly better than forecast, and the reading's seventh consecutive monthly increase. Overall retail sales totaled $322.4 billion in November, the department said.
Among sectors, sales at car dealers rose 2.6% in November, while sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.1%, sales at building and garden supply outlets rose 0.3%, and sales at electronics dealership rose 2.2%.
Meanwhile, according to the Labor Department, first-time applications for jobless benefits rose 13,000 to 378,000, bringing the four-week moving average 2,250 higher to 364,750. While economists like to see the number below 400,000, this week's increase puts first-time claims at their highest level in six weeks.
Economists, on average, had expected claims to fall slightly.
The Labor Department also reported that overall import prices rose 0.4% last month, its biggest rise in four months. The data could be significant in that it suggests the U.S. economy is either importing a remedy to recently hamstrung pricing power, or is simply importing inflation.