While U.S. new-car sales showed improvement in July, they remain below the rate seen earlier in the year, according to a report released by J.D. Power and Associates, a research firm. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in the retail part of the market is projected to be 9.8 million vehicles in July (when final numbers are determined in the next week or so). The report shows an industry starting to regain the momentum it had earlier in the year, when the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate topped 13 million for several months – the first time it had done that since the first half of 2008. It also indicates an easing of the acute inventory shortage that followed the earthquake in Japan. Sales were up a bit in July, compared to May and June, after the March earthquake in Japan cut into the availability of some small cars. However, consumers are worried about high unemployment and their confidence in the U.S. economy is low, which is limiting sales.