U.S. employment, at least as measured by business’ payroll records, revealed weakness in the months after the November 2001 business cycle trough. The most recent data for May 2004 show annual employment growth of 1.0 percent, however. In short, the U.S. employment picture has brightened in 2004.
The Nevada employment situation, on the other hand, recovered more quickly than the U.S. economy. To be sure, the service sector of the Silver State experienced a sharp decline after Sept. 11; but, after the recovery began, business picked up more quickly in service-based sectors than in manufacturing-based regional economies. Not surprisingly, Nevada employment growth figures have been better than the national number. The most recent annual employment growth rates are 4.6, 4.8 and 4.2 for Nevada, Clark County and Washoe County respectively.
A brighter employment picture for Nevada compared to the U.S. suggests overall economic conditions in the Silver State are also likely to be performing better than the U.S. Indeed, that has been the case. Nevada taxable sales, gaming revenue, passengers and visitor volume posted double-digit rates. The increases reflect a host of factors that include the oil price run-up to more than $40 per barrel. Nationally, energy and commodity prices have pushed prices up. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is up by 3.1 percent on an annual basis, adjusting for energy and food; the core CPI increased 1.7 percent.
The strength of the current indicators for Nevada and the U.S. points to continued economic growth in 2004. The evolving geopolitical environment, however, casts a shadow of risk.