PHOENIX -- If sales are any indication of consumer confidence, Arizonans believe that the economy is improving.
Not surprisingly, the figures, which generally represent sales made in January, are down about 29 percent from the prior month. But those figures reflect Christmas season sales.
The better comparison is over the same period a year earlier. And there, the February figures are up about 10 percent.
Among the strong year-over-year changes are sales by motor vehicle dealers, up 28 percent. And there are indications that homeowners are buying things to fix up their properties, with sales of building materials, lawn and garden supplies up almost 40 percent from the same time a year earlier.
Income at hotels and motels, a sign of tourism, also is up 15 percent from 2010 levels.
But Arizonans appear not quite ready to spend a lot more eating out and going out for a few drinks: Sales at bars and restaurants are actually below what they were last year.
And furniture sales, one indication of people moving or buying new homes, remains flat.
Overall, the report shows the state still has a long way to get back to pre-recession levels of spending. That $3.52 billion in retail sales is 17.5 percent below what it was at the same time in 2007, before the economy tanked.
And some areas of the economy fare even worse than average.
Car and truck sales are running 35.5 percent below 2007 levels. And furniture sales are more than 25 percent behind.
Hotel and motel revenues also remain 22.5 percent below what they were in 2007, with bar and restaurant sales down more than 10.4 percent.
Overall contracting business now is less than half of what it was at that time.