There may be plenty of signs the U.S. economy remains in the economic doldrums, but early returns from retailers regarding Thanksgiving holiday shopping is encouraging.

Total spending by U.S. consumers over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend reached a record $52.4 billion, up 16 percent from last year’s $45 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Between Thursday and Sunday, shoppers spent an average of $398.62 each, the most since 2008 when shoppers spent $372.57 on average.

Cyber Monday, the day of highest online sales, saw online buying increase 15 percent, including a 7.4 percent increase from mobile devices. The cyber Monday numbers show the growing comfort Americans have with using computers, smart phones and tablets to shop.

The strong retail spending over Thanksgiving gave Wall Street a boost on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial average jumping 291 points.

Whether or not the holiday season of 2011 pulls America into a stronger economic period remains to be seen, but the early numbers should be encouraging for agriculture and the beef industry. Retail beef prices have risen most weeks this fall, reaching a point many worry that consumers may begin passing the beef case for more affordably priced proteins.

One measure of America’s economic health is corporate profits, and new data show that more than 10 percent of American gross domestic product went to companies in the form of after tax profit. That’s significant because in the eight decades prior to the recent recession, there was never a period when as much as 9 percent went to after-tax profit.

Good times for companies, but wage and salary income for employees has fallen below 44 percent of gross domestic product, the first time in eight decades the number has been below 45 percent.

The federal government’s estimate of corporate profits was released last week, showing after tax-profit to be $1.56 trillion, at an annual rate, during the third quarter. That’s 10.3 percent of the size of the economy, up from 10.1 percent in the second quarter. Before 2010, the government had never reported even a single quarter with corporate profits as high as 9 percent.