Sales at U.S. retailers including Nordstrom and Costco Wholesale rose in August as job growth spurred back-to-school shopping. The overall increase at...

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Sales at U.S. retailers including Nordstrom and Costco Wholesale rose in August as job growth spurred back-to-school shopping.

The overall increase at stores open at least a year was about 4 percent, the International Council of Shopping Centers estimated yesterday, a pickup from the 3.7 percent average monthly gain this year. Sales at Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, climbed 3.3 percent, capped by record-high gasoline prices that cut into customers’ budgets.

Employers probably added 190,000 workers last month, an above-average gain for the year, keeping consumers spending during one of the hottest Augusts of the past century. Students looking for fashionable denim bolstered results at merchants including Abercrombie & Fitch and Wet Seal, which had gains of 24 percent and 48 percent, respectively.

“We’ve had a pretty resilient consumer,” said Jonathan Mueller, a senior analyst with Houston-based Aim Constellation Funds, which manages $6 billion including Wal-Mart and Kohl’s shares. “The job situation has been pretty steady. That’s definitely helped. The companies that have the right fashion trends weathered August really well.”

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At Seattle-based Nordstrom, comparable-store sales a key retail gauge that measures sales for stores open at least a year — rose 8 percent, almost double the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Same-store sales at Issaquah-based Costco, the largest U.S. warehouse-club retailer, rose 9 percent, and benefited by favorable foreign-exchange rates and gasoline inflation.

Starbucks reported a 7 percent gain based on strong sales of its core and green tea drinks, plus its continued lunch program expansion. The gain was at the high end of the Seattle specialty-coffee retailer’s own forecast but slightly lower than analysts’ estimates.

McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Dan Geiman said in a research note that higher gasoline prices may have affected sales growth as Starbucks’ customer base has expanded to include a younger and less-affluent demographic.

Sales at J.C. Penney rose 2.8 percent, helped by sales of jewelry and accessories. Limited Brands said its sales fell 3 percent. Analysts had expected a 1.1 percent decline.

Target, the No. 2 discounter, said sales rose 6.3 percent, beating its own forecast for a gain of as much as 6 percent. Target, with merchandise by designers including Isaac Mizrahi, tends to attract higher-income shoppers than Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart yesterday predicted September sales at its U.S. stores open at least a year will climb 2 percent to 4 percent.

Information on Costco, Starbucks and Nordstrom provided by Seattle Times business reporter Monica Soto Ouchi.