Retail sales in the U.S. jumped last month, more than expected, to a five-month high as falling gasoline prices sparked increased consumer buying, the Census Bureau said Wednesday.

Compared with January's tepid activity, February's numbers jumped by 1.1 percent to $421.4 billion. Compared with February 2012, these estimates show a more dramatic increase of 4.6 percent, a five-month high.

Auto and other motor vehicle dealers were up 8.8 percent from February 2012 while online sales climbed 15.7 percent.

As gasoline price hikes slowed, sales numbers from auto parts retailers and gasoline stations showed strong figures. Weaker areas were electronics stores, sporting goods stores and department stores.