Walmart customers walk by a shopping cart before entering the store in Oakland, Calif. - 

New claims for unemployment fell last week by 41,000. Additionally, U.S. manufacturing this month is growing at its fastest pace in five months.

This time of year marks the beginning of an important period for the retail sector. But is the outlook full of holiday cheer?

"I think it's going to be a decent holiday sales season," says Gus Faucher, senior economist with the PNC Financial Services Group. "I would expect to see sales up by about 4-4.5% over last year."

He adds that consumer confidence is looking strong and the job market is improving.

Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich