US retail sales continued their upward climb in April, with the latest figures showing evidence of a much more confident consumer compared to this time last year.

Data released by the US Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.4% over March and 9.3% year-on-year.  

According to the National Retail Federation, April retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5% over March and were 4.6% higher than April last year.

With a constantly-shifting Easter holiday, retailers typically look at March and April sales combined to gauge consumer spending.

Sales for the two months increased 5.6% over last year.

"The slow road to recovery is turning into a sprint as retailers experienced a nice bounce in April," said NRF president and CEO Matt Shay.

"But maintaining this sales momentum will be challenging. Until our economy begins to create jobs and reduce unemployment, the breadth and sustainability of this recovery remains uncertain." 

Rosalind Wells, chief economist for NRF, added: "Spring shopping and seasonal weather helped boost sales last month.

"Spending on discretionary items had fallen by the wayside these last few years and we are encouraged to see consumers dipping into that pot once again."  

Clothing and clothing accessory store sales decreased 1.0% seasonally adjusted from March, but increased 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year.