BOSTON (AP) — Retailers are optimistic that shoppers will be spreading around some cash along with holiday cheer in the Bay State over the coming weeks.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, citing improved consumer confidence, is forecasting a 3.9 percent increase in holiday sales over a year ago.

Jon Hurst, president of the 3,500-member trade group, said lower unemployment and the lowest gas prices in years are among the encouraging developments that have led to retail sales growth in recent months, a trend he expects to continue.

Hurst notes, however, that for the second year in a row the calendar provides only four, rather than five, weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The association is urging consumers to shop as much as possible in their own communities, to help local businesses.