According to revised data, U.S. real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 1.3 percent during second quarter 2011, up somewhat from the first quarter estimate of 0.4 percent. Both figures are well below the 2.3 percent annualized growth rate posted in fourth quarter 2010. U.S. nonfarm employment rose by 103,000 jobs in September, which was only enough to keep the U.S. unemployment rate steady at 9.1 percent. With weak improvement in labor market conditions, consumer confidence held steady in September, and consumer sentiment ticked upward. Sales of existing homes rose in August, but sales of new homes slipped slightly. Suggesting the possibility of an improving economy, real personal consumption spending and real retail sales were stronger in July and August than in any of the first six months of 2011. Not surprisingly, small businesses report continued difficulty in obtaining loans.
The Nevada economy continues to show mixed signs of growth. Visitor volume was up in August compared to a year earlier, but total gaming revenues were lower. Taxable sales in July were up by 4.7 percent above a year earlier. From July to August, Nevada saw a gain of 600 jobs (0.1 percent), while new entrants to the labor force pushed the unemployment rate up to 13.8 percent.
The pace of economic activity in Clark County remains uneven. Compared to a year earlier, visitor volume was up by 2.1 percent in August. Total gaming revenues were lower than a year earlier. Taxable sales for August were 2.6 percent above those for the same month a year earlier. Residential and commercial construction permits rose in August but remain near historically low levels. Total employment in the Las Vegas metropolitan area rose by 800 jobs. However, the unemployment rate rose from 14.0 to 14.2 percent with new entrants to the job market.
Washoe County’s overall economic conditions appear somewhat weaker. Compared to a year earlier, August visitor volume was up by 3.0 percent, but gaming was down by 9.5 percent. Residential and commercial construction permits fell in August and remain at historically low levels. Reno-Sparks employment fell by 100 jobs in August, but the unemployment rate held steady at 13.0 percent.
Although the national economy was particularly weak during the first half of 2011, Nevada’s tourism, hospitality and gaming industries showed considerable improvement. The favorable trends in tourism have continued into the second half of the year. The Nevada economy is likely to show stronger gains with U.S. economic conditions continuing to improve in the second half of 2011. Nevada’s real estate and construction sectors are showing hopeful signs of improvement.