Americans spent more at retailers in February despite the smaller paychecks, according to a Commerce Department report issued on March 13. Much of the increase in retail sales compared with January reflected higher gasoline prices. But even excluding the volatile categories of gas, autos and building supply stores, so-called core retail sales rose strongly.The healthier-than-expected numbers prompted some experts to revise their estimates of U.S. economic growth for the January-March quarter. And the Conference Board's measure of the U.S. economy's health over the next six months, reported on Thursday, increased in February from January. But that says little about the current financial reality for Americans like Tamke, the central New Jersey resident. He says he was out of work for over eight months before he found his current position. "I know I'm not pumping anything into the economy," he says. "I am barely able to pay my bills."