The “third” estimate for U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2017 increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent, up by 0.4 percentage point from the previous estimate. U.S. nonfarm employment added a disappointing 103,000 jobs in March after the large increase of 326,000 jobs in the last month. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for the sixth consecutive month. Average hourly earnings growth accelerated slightly from last month to 2.7 percent year-over-year. Retail sales decreased for the third straight month, but still increased by 4.0 percent from last year. Even though the pace of retail sales growth softened recently, consumer confidence remains high. February housing starts declined by 4.0 percent year-over-year, but seasonally adjusted housing prices in the United States continued to gain. The Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate in March and will probably increase the interest rate at least two more times in 2018. The recent uncertainty about a potential tariff war could provide a significant headwind.
The Nevada economy posted strong economic activity based on the most recent data. Seasonally adjusted statewide employment added 6,600 jobs in February. Taxable sales and gasoline sales (in gallons) in January grew by 5.1 and 2.8 percent, respectively, year-over-year. February gaming revenue increased by 7.7 percent year-over-year.
For Clark County, largely favorable signals emerged with the latest data. Seasonally adjusted employment added 2,600 new jobs from January to February. February visitor volume for Clark County continued its year-over-year loss of 5.8 percent because of the reduced number of rooms in inventory and residual concerns about the October 1 tragedy. Total McCarran Airport passengers, however, climbed by 4.0 percent during the same period. February gaming revenue rebounded after the second straight month of yearly decline, up by 7.7 percent. Clark County taxable sales and gasoline sales for January rose by 4.4 and 0.3 percent, respectively, compared to a year ago. November residential housing permits rose strongly by 40.8 percent year-over-year.
Highly positive signals characterized the economy in Washoe County. The Reno-Sparks seasonally adjusted employment gained 700 jobs from January to February and was up strongly by 4.5 percent from last year. January taxable sales for Washoe and Storey Counties was up by 3.0 percent year-over-year. February visitor volume continued to gain by 2.7 percent year-over-year. Residential housing permits in January continued a substantial year-over-year increase of 80.7 percent.
Stephen M. Miller, Director, Jinju Lee, Economic Analyst, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research