Consumer spending picked up in the second quarter but remained behind year-earlier levels, according to data from Mint Software Inc.

The Mountain View, Calif., online personal financial management company said last week that spending in several key categories rose an average of 3% from the first quarter, the first sequential gain since Mint began tracking consumers' habits at the start of 2008. Mint's software lets users monitor their spending and other financial activities.

Mint monitors users' spending on travel, entertainment, food, fuel and utilities. Spending in these categories was, on average, 12% lower than the year earlier. Fuel spending was down 40%, though Mint said that this had more to do with the price of gasoline than conservative driving habits. The company did not offer total spending data.

Aaron Patzer, Mint's chief executive, said in a press release that the quarterly gain "may be an early signal that consumer optimism is growing — either because they feel the bottom is here or is now in sight."