U.S. real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 1.0 percent during second quarter 2011, up somewhat from the revised first quarter estimate of 0.4 percent. Both figures are well below the revised estimate of 2.3 percent annualized growth for real GDP in fourth quarter 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) establishment survey, U.S. nonfarm employment held steady in August. The U.S. unemployment rate also held steady at 9.1 percent in August. With no improvement in labor market conditions and rising inflation, consumer confidence slid downward in August. Sales of existing homes slipped in July, and sales of new homes fell in July for the third straight month. Real personal consumption spending ticked upward in July, while real retail sales slipped downward.
Nevada’s economy continues to show mixed signs. Visitor volume was up in July compared to a year earlier, and gaming revenues were 3.7 higher in July than a year ago. Taxable sales in June were up by a robust 9.0 percent above a year earlier. From June to July, Nevada saw the loss of 8,800 jobs (0.8 percent), and the unemployment rate rose from 13.5 percent to 13.7 percent.
The pace of economic activity in Clark County remains uneven. Compared to a year earlier, visitor volume was up by 3.7 percent in July. In the same month, gaming revenues were 3.2 percent above a year earlier on the basis of increased baccarat and slot machine play. Taxable sales for June were 8.1 percent above those for the same month a year earlier. Residential construction permits fell sharply in July and remain at historically low levels. Commercial construction permits held steady at very low levels. Although employment in some sectors rose in July, total employment in the Las Vegas metropolitan area fell by 5,800 jobs. he unemployment rate rose from 13.8 percent to 14.0 percent.
Washoe County’s economic conditions also remain uneven. Compared to a year earlier, July visitor volume was up by 0.8 percent, and gaming was up by 1.4 percent. Residential and commercial construction permits both rose in July—commercial permits decidedly so. Reno-Sparks employment fell by 1,700 jobs in July. Most sectors saw employment losses. Construction and professional and business services held steady. Natural resources and mining, and leisure and hospitality saw small gains. The unemployment rate rose from 12.9 percent to 13.0 percent.
Although the U.S. economy was particularly weak during the first half of 2011, Nevada’s tourism, hospitality and gaming industries showed considerable gains. That segment of the Nevada economy is likely to show continued improvement. Nevada’s real estate and construction sectors are near or at bottom, and may contribute to growth in 2012.