Washington--The National Retail Federation announced Tuesday that retail sales for 2016 now are expected to grow 3.4 percent over last year, an improvement from the 3.1 percent sales growth forecast earlier in the year.

Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the overall figure, are predicted to increase 7 to 10 percent over 2015, up from the earlier forecast of 6 to 9 percent.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release that the improved housing marketing, job growth, higher wages and other factors have helped to boost consumer spending through the first half of the year and they expect that to continue.

“Challenges remain, with some greater than others depending on the retail category, but consumer confidence remains high and we believe that retail customers will continue the positive trends we have seen in the first two quarters of the year,” he said.

Excluding automobiles, gas and restaurants, January-June retail sales were up nearly 4 percent year-over-year and the NRF expects the United States’ gross domestic product to grow between 1.9 and 2.4 percent.

“There are many factors that could prove to be hurdles but our overall outlook is optimistic,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the same release. “Uncertainty surrounding the presidential election could make consumers more cautious, and the combination of a rising dollar and global slowdown have impacted exports, but other factors like favorable weather patterns that will help move winter merchandise support our outlook.”

The NRF said it is watching economic developments closely and, if needed, will update its annual forecast when it makes it predictions for the holiday season in October.

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