JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The holiday shopping season is still over a month away, but retail experts like what they're seeing, and that's good news in this struggling economy.

Last year, people spent more than a half-trillion dollars between November and December, and experts expect that number to go up in 2012.

The new projections are an important indicator for retailers who depend on the last two months of the year for up to 40 percent of their annual sales.

At Cowford Traders in Avondale, workers are already seeing sales pick up.

"We've had a lot more foot traffic," said Cowford's Jackie Meyer. "People are tired of not being able to enjoy. At lease come look at what's new."

Meyer is hoping the momentum continues right through the holidays.

According to economists, consumer confidence is growing and realtors say the real estate market is directly affecting retail sales.

"It's all interrelated," Realtor Patrick Venzke said. "If you have a good job, you want a nice house or get stuff for Christmas. It's been a bad two or three years, but things are turning around."

The National Retail Federation is predicting a 4.1 percent rise in holiday shopping this year.

They also predict merchants will hire roughly 625,000 seasonal workers for the holidays -- that's 20,000 more jobs than last year.

Retailers are hoping they can end 2012 with a financial bang in November and December.

"It's huge. That's what we do," Meyer said. "We put our eggs in one basket and that's where it goes."

Shoppers say from what they're witnessing right now, the economy is heading in the right direction.

"I feel like when I go to the mall, once or twice a week, it's hustling and bustling," shopper Aaron Mulvey said. "Both places seem about equal to me."