NEW YORK — The nation’s largest retail trade group says holiday spending rose a better-than-expected 5.5 percent, the strongest gain since the Great Recession.

The National Retail Federation said Friday holiday sales reached $691.9 billion as shoppers stepped up their spending in the wake of a better economy. The results beat the group’s original growth projections of 3.6 percent to 4 percent, and it marked the largest increase since the 5.2 percent gain in 2010.

Online shopping, which is included in the results, increased 11.5 percent.

The overall figure exclude sales from autos, gas and restaurants but includes non-store sales like those from catalogs.

The news comes as the government reported that retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, after a 0.9 percent surge in November.

Many retailers reported solid holiday sales gains.

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ANNE D'INNOCENZIO
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