US retail sales rise in January, led by gas and restaurants

Americans increased their spending at gasoline stations and restaurants in January, pushing up overall retail sales even as auto buying fell.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, slowing down from a solid 1 percent gain in December.

Higher gas prices drove a 2.3 percent sales increase at service stations. Purchases at restaurants and bars climbed 1.4 percent. But sales at auto dealers slipped 1.2 percent after jumping 2.9 percent in December.

Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen a solid 5.6 percent. The greater spending likely reflects the improving job market. Employers added 227,000 workers in January, while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.8 percent because more people started looking for jobs and were counted as unemployed.