US retail sales were back on an upward trajectory in April, after slipping back the month before, the latest figures show, with clothing one of the month's best performers.

Data released by the US Department of Commerce showed retail sales were 0.1% higher than in March and rose 3.7% year-on-year. Excluding petrol stations, sales were flat with March and rose by 0.7% on last year.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 1.2% on March, and were 5.7% higher year-on-year.

General merchandise stores' sales increased 1.0% over the month, with department stores creeping up 0.3%. And sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores edged up 0.5%.

Strengthening employment data, increasing housing prices and a record-breaking stock market provided consumers the confidence they needed to shop in April, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

"In the face of higher taxes and sequester, consumers provided the economy a bit of a reprieve this month," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

"Despite colder spring weather and an early Easter, consumers shopped in April, demonstrating an inherent resiliency even as the economy faces serious headwinds, including stagnant job and wage growth."

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz described the retail sales data as "encouraging," but added: "However positive, retail sales and consumer spending in April may not necessarily translate into a stronger or healthier second quarter."

NRF continues to forecast moderate sales growth for the year.