The “initial” estimate of U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2018 produced an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent. Overall, the economy expanded by 2.9 percent in 2018, the strongest growth since 2015, while the trade deficit climbed to the highest level since the Great Recession. Average hourly earnings growth rebounded from 3.1 percent growth in January, posting 3.4 percent year-over-year growth in February. Retail sales in December decelerated substantially and posted the weakest yearly rise since August 2016, up only by 2.3 percent year-over-year. As a result, the personal saving rate exhibited its highest level in nearly three years. The Fed will not likely increase the federal fund rate early this year as they pledged more “patience” with future interest hikes due to economic uncertainty.
The Nevada economy showed mixed signals from the most recent data releases. Seasonally adjusted statewide employment added 3,800 jobs in January. January gaming revenue experienced a year-over-year loss of 3 percent. December taxable sales were up by 6.3 percent from last year, which resulted in an increase of 5.4 percent from 2017 to 2018. December Nevada air passengers also rose by 2.4 percent relative to a year ago.
Clark County also experienced mixed signals in its economic activity compared to last month. Seasonally adjusted employment gained 3,400 jobs in January. January visitor volume in Clark County rose by 1.8 percent compared to last year, while gaming revenue fell by 3.5 percent over the same period. Total McCarran Airport passengers in January increased by 3.3 percent year-over-year. December taxable sales increased strongly by 8.1 percent year-over-year. Residential housing permits/units in December decreased substantially by 51.5 percent from a year ago, which brought a reduction of 12.5 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Washoe County exhibited slightly negative economic signals. The Reno-Sparks seasonally adjusted employment added 1,000 jobs from December to January, up strongly by 6.5 percent year-over-year. December taxable sales for Washoe and Storey Counties declined by 6.6 percent year-over-year, which resulted in a loss of 3.8 percent from 2017 to 2018 due largely to weaker performance in Storey County. January visitor volume climbed by 4.4 percent from last year, while gaming revenue barely budged during the same period. December total airport passengers exceeded the level from last year by 4.4 percent. Residential housing permits in December experienced a year-over-year loss of 8.0 percent.
Stephen M. Miller, Director
Jinju Lee, Economic Analyst
UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or the Nevada System of Higher Education.