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Retail sales encouraging

WICHITA — One of the big unknowns in whether we really are in a recovery has been consumer spending. Consumers have been laid off or scared of losing their jobs or trying madly to pay off their bills for about a year. It makes for some pretty conservative spending habits.

That’s why this August report on chain store sales from the International Council of Shopping Centers is good news. It’s down from last August, but only 2 percent, better than the companies expected. It suggests that consumers are feeling better about life and are willing to spend. That supports retailers, which supports manufacturers. Consumer spending is 70 percent of the US economy.

Of course, this is fragile, given the massive amounts of consumer, corporate and national debt that must still be paid down. Some predict the recovery will fall back into recession next year. But, for now, let’s embrace the encouraging news.