U.S. real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent during fourth quarter 2011, which represents a gain over the third-quarter figure of 1.8 percent. Consumption spending and inventory investment were particularly strong. Residential investment showed stronger growth, but business fixed investment slowed. U.S. nonfarm employment rose by 243,000 jobs in January, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. After several months of gains, consumer confidence slipped in January, and consumer sentiment slipped in February. Sales of existing homes rose for the third straight month in December, reaching 3.6 percent above a year earlier. Sales of new homes slipped in December for the second straight month. Retail sales rose in January for the eighth straight month. The Kansas City Financial Stress Index edged downward in January but remained slightly above its long-run average, suggesting that financial headwinds to U.S. economic growth have nearly abated.
The Nevada economy continues to show signs of slow growth. Taking a seasonal decline in December, visitor volume was 1.9 percent higher than a year earlier. Gaming revenue was 2.0 percent higher in December than a year earlier. Taxable sales were up by 9.6 percent in November above a year earlier. From December 2010 to December 2011, Nevada saw a gain of 3,500 jobs (0.3 percent), mostly the result of gains in leisure and hospitality, business services and health and education services. The Nevada unemployment rate took a seasonal increase from 12.2 percent in November to 12.4 percent in December.
Clark County’s economic activity continues to expand at a slow pace. Compared to a year earlier, visitor volume was up by 1.7 percent in December. Gaming revenues were up by 1.2 percent over the same period. Taxable sales for November were 8.6 percent above those for the same month a year earlier. Residential construction permits rose from November to December, and commercial construction permits held steady at a low level. From December 2010 to December 2011, employment in the Las Vegas metropolitan area increased by 4,300 jobs (0.5 percent). The Las Vegas unemployment rate rose seasonally from 12.4 in November to 12.7 percent in December.
Washoe County’s overall economic conditions remain mostly weak. Compared to a year earlier, December visitor volume was up by 4.1 percent, and gaming was up by 10.2 percent. Both residential and commercial construction permits slipped from November to December, and both remain near historically low levels. Reno-Sparks employment fell by 2,600 jobs (1.4 percent) from December 2010 to December 2011. The Reno-Sparks unemployment rate rose from 11.6 percent in November to 11.9 percent in December, as the result of seasonal factors.
Professor Stephen P.A. Brown, PhD, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research