(AP) U.S. retail sales rose modestly in October, evidence that recent job gains and lower gas prices are lifting consumer spending as the holiday shopping season begins. The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month after falling by the same amount in September. Excluding gas stations, where falling prices lowered spending, sales rose a solid 0.5 percent. Employers have stepped up hiring, giving more Americans paychecks to spend and boosting consumer confidence. Stock prices have reached new highs, possibly encouraging more spending by wealthy households. Greater spending could spur more growth because consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of economic activity. Auto sales rose a solid 0.5 percent, after falling sharply in September. Americans also spent more at restaurants and at sporting goods and health care stores.