The “advance” estimate of U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2019 grew at an annual rate of 2.1 percent for the second consecutive quarter. As a result, the U.S. economy expanded by 2.3 percent in 2019. Despite slowed consumer spending, the U.S. economy expanded, boosted by net exports, which rebounded strongly after two consecutive quarters of declines. U.S. nonfarm employment added a better-than-expected 225,000 jobs in January. Revised higher employment for November and December added an additional 7,000 jobs. Retail sales in December experienced the strongest year-over-year gain since August 2018 of 5.8 percent. Housing starts in December also surged by 40.8 percent year-over-year, hitting its highest level in 13 years. The U.S. economy continues its moderate expansion, benefitting from its strong labor market, while the current coronavirus epidemic centered in China brings uncertainty as it disrupts trade and supply chains.
The Nevada economy experienced mostly positive signals with the release of the most recent data. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, a 20-year low. December gaming revenue increased strongly by 5.8 percent year-over-year. November taxable sales continued its robust year-over-year increase, rising by 6.0 percent, while gasoline sales (in gallons) gained modestly by 0.8 percent over the same period.
Clark County also posted generally favorable signals in local economic activity. The unemployment rate in December also edged down to 4 percent, the lowest since the Great Recession. December visitor volume and gaming revenue increased strongly by 5.5 and 6.6 percent, respectively, from last year. Total McCarran Airport passengers in December also climbed strongly by 8.8 percent year-over-year, which contributed to its record-breaking 51.5 million passengers in 2019. November taxable sales and gasoline sales (in gallons) experienced year-over-year increases of 4.8 and 1.6 percent, respectively. Residential housing permits/units in December, however, fell by 12.0 percent despite a substantial nationwide gain.
Washoe County reported largely positive economic signals. The unemployment rate ticked down to a 20-year low of 3.1 percent. November taxable sales for Washoe and Storey Counties rose strongly by 8.9 percent from a year ago, and gasoline sales continued its gain of 1.2 percent over the same period. December visitor volume and gaming revenue, however, declined by 3.7 and 2.1 percent, respectively, from last year.
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.