The “advance” estimate for first quarter 2015 shows U.S. real gross domestic product increasing at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent. In fourth quarter 2014, real GDP increased by 2.2 percent. Personal consumption expenditures, federal government spending, changes in private inventories and residential investment made positive contributions. Non-residential fixed investment, net exports and state and local government spending made negative contributions. U.S. nonfarm employment experienced gains in April, adding 223,000 jobs over March. The unemployment rate fell from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent. Housing starts were down year-over-year, but housing prices experienced a slight increase. Auto/truck sales and retail sales remained above their level from last year. Consumer confidence fell while consumer sentiment rose for the most recent data. In addition, while oil prices have experienced recent increases, they remain at their lowest levels since the recession.
The Nevada economy evidenced mixed signals with the most recent data. Seasonally adjusted, statewide employment decreased by 700 jobs from February to March, but it was up 2.8 percent year-over-year. The Nevada unemployment rate remained constant at 7.1 percent. Taxable sales continued to show strong year-over-year growth, up 9.1 percent. Total air passengers were down 1.6 percent over the same time period. Gaming revenue experienced gains for the month but was down 3.1 percent from March 2014.
For Clark County, seasonally adjusted employment was up 2.9 percent year-over-year. Total passengers at McCarran Airport were up 1.8 percent from a year earlier. March visitor volume was down 2.5 percent from a year ago. Gaming revenue was 4.0 percent lower than in March 2014. Clark County’s taxable sales for February were 8.7 percent above those of a year earlier. Residential construction permits decreased from February to March. Commercial construction permits remained at a low level.
The most recent data show mostly positive signals for Washoe County. Seasonally adjusted, Reno-Sparks’ employment was up over a year ago, by 3.2 percent. The seasonally adjusted Reno-Sparks unemployment rate fell from 6.6 percent to 6.5 percent. Compared to a year earlier, March visitor volume was down 1.2 percent. Total air passengers were down 0.6 percent from March 2014. Gaming revenues for March were up 6.5 percent from a year earlier. Residential construction increased from February to March, while commercial construction permits remained low.
The U.S. economy experienced weaker growth in first quarter 2015 than in the previous three quarters. Consumer spending remains strong, although some aspects of the housing market are no longer improving. In Clark County, tourism remains fairly robust, and taxable sales continue to make large gains. Nevada’s employment is also showing stable growth.
Ryan T. Kennelly
UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research