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Nov. 2003

Economic growth blew away expectations in the third quarter, thanks to consumer spending.

The Gross Domestic Product—the strongest indicator of economic activity—grew at a 7.2 percent annual rate for the quarter—the fastest pace in nearly two decades, according to figures released by the Commerce Department, The growth was fueled by a 6.6 percent consumer spending jump.

While joblessness remains high, economists continue to hope that strong demand will lead to significant job growth.

Meanwhile, other data released by the U.S. Commerce Department shows that total retail sales for September rose 9.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year, despite the Consumer Confidence Index falling nearly five points, to 76.8. Considering sales, however, the National Retail Federation and industry economists continue to predict that the holiday season will be happy.

The NRF predicts holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion, which would be the largest increase since 1999.

And, according to the group’s research, jewelry ranks strongly among the categories that consumers are wishing for this holiday season, with 23.9 percent of consumers hoping to receive jewelry this year,

The average consumer plans to spend $671.89, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2003 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, up from the $648.85 spent in 2002.

On average, consumers plan to spend $518.44 on gifts this year. Interestingly, more than half of consumers plan to take advantage of sales and promotional items to purchase items for themselves.

An increasing number of consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier each year. This year, 42.8 percent of consumers plan to begin their holiday shopping in October or before, another 35 percent of consumers plan to begin shopping in November, with the remaining 22.1 percent planning to wait until December.

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