Credit…Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Eight million Americans have slipped into poverty since May and there are 11 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. And yet, for the fifth straight month, people continued to pull out their wallets and spend more on cars, sporting goods and clothing.

Consumer spending rose 1.9 percent in September, the Commerce Department said on Friday, more than twice the rate of increase that most economists had predicted. Retail sales have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and “jump started,” according to one economist, a “nascent economic recovery.”

“We thought we would see negative impacts on spending by now, but these are surprisingly strong sales gains,” said Scott Anders, an economist at Bank of the West. “We thought catastrophic joblessness would weigh more on confidence, but it has risen.”

These
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