Though showing signs of slower growth, a strong U.S. economy seems to be moving toward what seems to be a sustainable path. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of overall spending, increased at 7.61 percent for the third quarter of 2000 over the same period a year ago. The early estimate of the third quarter GDP growth rate adjusted for price increases came in at 2.7 percent for the third quarter, a drop from 5.6 percent in the second quarter. This deceleration largely reflects declines in inventory adjustments, nonresidential fixed investments, and government spending.
The benefits of the longest U.S. economic expansion on record have spread across the Silver State. Unemployment rates in Nevada have reached the lowest levels since the 1960s, fueled by the growth in the overall U.S. economy. For October, Nevada reported a 4 percent unemployment rate, slightly higher for Las Vegas (4.2 percent) and slightly lower for Reno (2.6 percent).
Gross gaming revenue for September 2000 showed a 3.79 percent decrease over the year-ago level. While Washoe County numbers reflected an 8.37 percent increase, Clark County gaming revenue fell 7.06 percent. Las Vegas gaming revenues for this September were not extremely low; rather, September 1999 was an extraordinarily high month for gaming revenues, with three new resorts opening that month, in addition to the MAGIC convention and a large prizefight weekend. Las Vegas has experienced revenue growth rates reflective of overall U.S. economic health, as well as increased visitor volume reflective of the acceptance of the large capacity expansion of the Las Vegas Strip.
Energy prices contributed significantly to a 3.45 annualized percent increase in the current Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI, excluding energy and food prices, increased at a 2.6 percent rate over last year. Energy prices are up 15.4 percent from levels a year ago, and they remain a concern. Overall, the inflation picture remains less favorable than in past years.
Housing, another area in which some slowing has occurred, remains generally weak in response to higher interest rates. U.S. housing starts are down 2.43 percent since last year. Mortgage rates for October, however, were on average below 8 percent, having declined from the steady levels above 8 percent for the past summer.
All in all, leading economic indicators foretell that the future outlook remains bright.
Consumer confidence as measured in surveys remains high, though it has declined slightly over the past few months.