NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The U.S. consumer is back.
At least that's what the numbers are saying.
As reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce last week, retail sales rose 0.7% in November, after rising 0.5% in October, beating Wall Street's expectations of a 0.4% gain heading into the busy holiday shopping season. Core sales for the month rose 4.4% versus the year-ago period, and the National Retail Federation said the numbers support its expectation of a 4.1% jump in holiday sales this year.
Some of this spending growth can be attributed to lower fuel prices -- oil was selling for about $59 per barrel as of Tuesday, contributing to some of the lowest prices seen at the pump since 2009, but there are longer-term trends at work as well.
For example, the employment market is strengthening. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy added 312,000 jobs in November and unemployment is holding steady at 5.8 %, the lowest level for that figure since July 2008. What's more, inflation has generally held flat, making many middle-class Americans feel richer and more likely to spend.
In short: Things are looking good for the U.S. consumer.
Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, JPMorgan's head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy, addressed these trends in a research note last week, calling the U.S. economy of late a "supportive consumer spending environment with markedly high disposable income, increasing wealth effect, and rising household leverage."
Further, he wrote, given the low rate of consumption over the last several years, pent up demand could drive consumer activity above average levels in the near term as Americans hit the stores to replenish worn out products in the coming months.