Minus autos (vehicles and parts), the preliminary retail sales report gives an increase of 1.1% from July 2009. From the current press release:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $351.4 billion, an increase of 2.7 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, but 5.3 percent (±0.7%) below August 2008. Total sales for the June through August 2009 period were down 7.6 percent (±0.3%) from the same period a year ago. The June to July 2009 percent change was revised from -0.1 percent (±0.5%)* to -0.2 percent (±0.2%)*.
Retail trade sales were up 3.0 percent (±0.7%) from July 2009, but 6.0 percent (±0.7%) below last year. Gasoline stations sales were down 26.7 percent (±1.5%) from August 2008 and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down 13.6 percent (±2.0%) from last year.
Auto dealers had a blow out with a 11.9% pop in sales from July 2009.
What I find interesting is gas stations being down 26.7% from August 2008, but up 5.1% for the month. In August 2008 gas prices were $3.74/gal. and in August 2009, were $2.61. That's a 30% price drop.
So, it helps to look at the details for assuredly these numbers will be grabbed as evidence of some amazing economic recovery (since the U.S. economy is 70% consumer driven) but it might be more of a temporary outliner, due to cash for clunkers.