Broadcast advertising revenues rose an expected 16% to $ 5.6 billion in the third quarter, boosted by record political spending in the period and a rise in key “bellwether” categories that could indicate some form of an economic upturn.

The Television Bureau of Advertising reported that overall broadcast revenues are running 7% over last year for the first nine months of the year.

Network advertising spending soared 18% to $ 2.3 billion when compared to the third quarter a year ago, while spot and local were up 14% to $ 1.4 billion apiece and national syndication rose 17% to $ 527 million. The double-digit increase in spot and local marks the first time that has happened since the fourth quarter of 1986.

On a nine-month basis, network revenues are up 7%, syndicated TV including Fox is up 10%, spot advertising is up 6%, and local advertising is up 8%.

While saying that the $ 310 million in political bucks spent during the quarter has a lot to do with the third-quarter performance, Harold Simpson, VP of research and development for the organization, added that there were other categories adding to the rise.

“There seems to be other things happening,” Simpson said. “The continuation of support from the automakers and, lumped together, package goods. It’s spotty. Not what I would call a breakaway move, but it does seem to suggest some positive movement.”

Automakers actually spent 7% less on syndication than at this time last year and increased spending a modest 3% on the network side. However, automakers boosted spot spending 36% to $ 429 million during the three-month period.

Chrysler increased its spot spending some 389% ($ 40 million), Nissan spent 166% more ($ 38.9 million) and Ford upped its spending 140% ($ 34.7 million).

General Mills ($ 54 million) and the Philip Morris Companies ($ 54 million) also showed significant spot spending increases, rising 16% and 25%, respectively.

Banks and savings & loans were up 47% to $ 52.5 million in local spending, and hotels and resorts accounted for a 31% increase ($ 15.5 million) from a year ago.

Time Warner spent 180% more or $ 18 million in the local scene, while the Walt Disney Co. upped spending 65% to $ 20 million and McDonald’s Corp. spent 32 % more, or $ 40 million.

McDonald’s increased its network spending by 47% to $ 64 million. Sears Roebuck & Co. and Unilever N.V. recorded gains of 52% ($ 44.8 million) and 57% ( $ 46.9 million), respectively.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more