The Associated Press___ Retailers report best sales growth since March NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ This summer, Americans were walking contradictions: They opened their wallets despite escalating fears about the slow economic recovery and surging gas prices. A group of 18 retailers ranging from discounter Target to department-store chain Macy's reported on Thursday that August sales rose 6 percent â¿¿ the industry's best performance since March â¿¿ according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. At the same time, the government released numbers showing that Americans spent in July at the fastest clip in five months. The recent data appear to show that what Americans say and do are two different things. The reports come two days after a private research firm said consumer confidence in August fell to its lowest level since November 2011 as Americans grew more concerned about the job market, business conditions and the overall economy. ___ US consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in July after earning a little more. The increase in income and consumer spending could help boost an economy mired in subpar growth. Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July from June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That followed no change in June and a slight decline in May. Income grew 0.3 percent, matching the gains from May and June. Americans also earned 0.3 percent more after paying taxes. The savings rate after taxes dipped to 4.2 percent in July. That's down slightly from 4.3 percent in June, the highest in a year. ___ US unemployment applications flat at 374,000 WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250.