CHICAGO – Retail spending is steadily climbing higher, a sign that consumers may be relaxing austerity measures adopted during the recession, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) reported.

Bruce Grindy, chief economist, said preliminary figures from the US Census Bureau show total retail and foodservice sales advanced 0.6 percent in August (on a seasonally adjusted basis), the seventh consecutive monthly gain.

Eating and drinking places posted the strongest gains in recent months, according to Grindy. Restaurant sales totaled $47.7 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis, a 0.6 percent gain compared to July and the strongest monthly volume on record. Overall, eating and drinking place sales climbed 7.1 percent in the 12 months ending August 2014, the strongest 12-month gain in more than two years.

"Looking forward, the positive underlying fundamentals suggest that we will see continued sales growth in the months ahead," Grindy reported. "Despite the speed bump in August, national job growth is on a positive trajectory, and consumer confidence is at a seven-year high.

"In addition, gas prices are down $0.25 since the end of June, which puts additional disposable income in the pockets of consumers," he added. "This typically benefits discretionary sectors like restaurants, in which a large proportion of the growth is driven by cash on hand."