U.S. real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.2 percent during first quarter 2012, representing a substantial slowing from the fourth-quarter rate of 3.0 percent. Government spending, business fixed investment and net exports made negative contributions. U.S. nonfarm employment rose by only 115,000 jobs in April, marking the weakest gain since August 2011. Consumer sentiment increased slightly in April, but consumer confidence slipped slightly. Sales of new and existing homes slipped in March, but were 7.5 percent and 5.2 percent higher than a year earlier, respectively. Personal consumption expenditures increased for the ninth straight month in March, and retail sales rose in March for the tenth straight month. The Kansas City Financial Stress Index remained below its long-run average in April, which suggests financial headwinds are not impeding economic growth. The quantity of commercial paper outstanding remains low, however, which means that relatively little external financing is being used to support business investment.
The Nevada economy continues to show uneven signs of growth. Visitor volume was 2.3 percent higher in March than a year earlier. Gaming revenue was 10.9 percent lower in March than a year earlier. Taxable sales were 10.2 percent higher in February than a year earlier. Statewide employment increased by 8,700 jobs (0.8 percent) in March. The Nevada unemployment rate decreased from 12.2 percent in February to 11.9 percent in March as the result of employment gains and reduced labor force participation.
Clark County’s economy also shows uneven signs of growth. Compared to a year earlier, visitor volume was up by 3.1 percent in March. Gaming revenue was 12.2 percent lower in March than a year earlier. Taxable sales for February were 11.1 percent above those for a year earlier. Residential construction permits rose sharply from February to March, and commercial construction permits increased from a low level. The region’s employment rose by 6,300 jobs (0.8 percent) from February to March. The Las Vegas unemployment rate fell slightly, from 12.2 percent in February to 12.1 percent in March.
Washoe County’s economy continued to show sluggish growth. Reno-Sparks employment rose by 1,000 jobs (0.5 percent) from February to March. The Reno-Sparks unemployment rate fell from 12.2 percent in February to 12.0 percent in March. Compared to a year earlier, March visitor volume was down by 5.4 percent. Gaming revenues were up by 0.4 percent over the same period. Residential construction permits held steady in March, and commercial construction permits rose from extremely low levels.