With the unemployment rate staying firmly high, everyone from federal economists on down is looking for small signs of hope. Now, there may be some positive news in consumer spending -- specifically electronics.
Sales of electronics and appliances totaled $8.7 billion in July, up 8 percent from a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department.
On New York's Upper West Side, Anthony Curry is at Best Buy to get a gift for his niece and nephew, and a DVD called Marked for Death, he says.
A shiny new MacBook is set to play an endless loop of rock to help set the shopping mood -- and it seems to be working.
"It's a man's store, you know; every man loves Best Buy," he says.
Shopper Jonathan Maron just seems to have a little extra money to burn. "Payday! Today's payday, so I just had to walk around and see what I can pick up," Maron says.
Shoppers are slowly beginning to feel comfortable spending again, says Andy Hargreaves, a senior research analyst for Pacific Crest Securities. "If you go back to the beginning of last year, there was so much uncertainty about the economy. People were afraid to spend anything," he says. "We didn't know if our house was going to zero -- we didn't know if the world was going to implode, so there just wasn't comfort around any kind of significant consumer purchase."
But these recent purchases are very targeted. People aren't buying so many refrigerators or dining room sets or even flat-screen TVs.
"Really, right now, when you peel back the onion -- it's really PC demand that's driving that number rather than broad electronic sales," Hargreaves says.
Joe and Sally Cooper already bought an iPad, but they're still in the market for a computer.
"I'm looking for a small laptop, so it's nice and light and so that it's easy to carry so he can travel with it," Sally says.
Anna Bondarenko, who was eyeing Toshibas, says she's looking for a new computer. "I'm actually going back to school -- my old computer was getting a little rusty," she says.
Back-to-school shopping can account for some of the rise in sales, but according to Hargreaves, this summer's buyers are people who showed restraint last year.
"It's a bit of pent-up demand that's being released," he says. "And that may be slowing right now, so it's going to be an interesting thing."