There may be some green this Christmas, after all. Retail sales in November got a surprise lift, rising 0.7%, the biggest gain in five months, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, raising hopes for a solid holiday shopping season and an improving economy. November’s 0.7% jump follows a 0.6% gain in retail sales in October. Economists had been expecting a 0.6% increase in November. The gains were across the board. Sales at automobile dealers climbed 1.8%, the most since June, after gaining 1.1% in October. Revenue also grew at furniture stores, electronics shops and non-store retailers, including online retailers. A rising stock market, improving home values and declining unemployment have helped lift consumer sentiment, boding well for the economy. Consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. economic activity. Signs of a strengthening economy could prompt the Fed to pull back sooner rather than later on its economic stimulus program. But it wasn’t all good news on the economic front. Another report, from the Labor Department, showed applications for unemployment insurance payments jumped by 68,000 last week to 368,000. It was the biggest increase in a year.