Economic data from August shows that the U.S. economy is holding up pretty well against the threat of the Delta variant; market analysts and economists had feared that the surge in new infections would cause another economic downturn. U.S. retail spending was up last month, and unemployment numbers were down, both indicating higher economic demand and signs of pandemic recovery.

U.S. retail sales rose by 0.7% in August after falling 1.8% in July, according to the Commerce Department's latest report on Thursday, topping consensus expectations for a 0.7% drop. Last month's increase was driven by e-commerce, furniture and home furniture sales, as well as increased spending at grocery stores and clothing and accessory stores as families prepared for the back-to-school season.

Meanwhile, initial jobless claims were up 20,000 to a total of 332,000 for the week ended Sept. 11, according to the Labor Department's weekly report on Thursday, but still remained at pandemic-era lows as job market continues to show signs of sustained recovery from the previous waves of infections the nation faced since March 2020. Initial jobless claims usually are a good market indicators for layoff rates, with fresh data showing that employers are retaining employees at higher rates than throughout most of the pandemic.

The boost in both economic indicators comes as market analysts and economists were bracing for the Delta variant's impact on the U.S. economy's recovery. While some sectors like travel and leisure have seen some consumer pullbacks, restaurant and drinking places sales have maintained July's levels in August, and are up 32% year-over-year, signalling that consumers are not as skittish as they were before when it comes to going out and are spending money at higher rates compared to last year.

Overall, stronger jobs market data, coupled with recent retail spending gains show signs of continued economic recovery.

For the investor that is looking to add retail and consumer spending recovery plays ahead of the holiday season to their portfolio without the hassle of picking potential winners from individual stocks, exchange-traded funds offer a safer investment into the sector.

Top funds in this sector include, SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT  ), VanEcks Vectors Retail ETF (RTH  ) , and Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY  ), each of which are up 49%, 14%, 13% for their respective year-to-dates.