Sales Up 16 Percent, Largest Gain in Eight Years

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Nevada merchants sold $3.5 billion in goods in March, a 16.1 percent increase over the same month last year and the largest monthly increase in the past eight years, the Department of Taxation reported Thursday.

Gov. Kenny Guinn hailed the news as continued evidence of Nevada's economic recovery.

"Nine months of steady growth demonstrates that Nevada's business environment is strong and getting stronger," the governor said.

Taxes collected from sales and use taxes in March amounted to nearly $268 million, an increase of nearly 24 percent over the previous year.

March sales brought the total for the fiscal year to $28 billion, up 11.9 percent compared with the same time period last year, the agency said. Sales taxes collected during the nine month period that began July 1 totaled $2.08 billion, up 12.6 percent compared with last year.

Though cigarette and live entertainment taxes haven't met estimates, Guinn said overall tax collections are $39 million above projections set by the state Economic Forum in May 2003.

"I am pleased with the investments our business community has made in our state and the confidence our workers and consumers have shown in the direction our state is headed," Guinn said.

A breakdown of the sales taxes shows that Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, accounted for $2.6 billion of the March sales, up 17.4 percent; while Washoe County, encompassing Reno, had $538.5 million in sales, up 13.3 percent from the same month a year ago.

Only rural Lincoln County in southeast Nevada posted a taxable sales loss. But the taxation department said the 85 percent decline was skewed by a one-time, $12.7 million transaction in March 2003. Without that, it said Lincoln County would have posted a taxable sales gain this March.

In other outlying counties, sales were up 6.8 percent in Churchill; 27.9 percent in Douglas; 4.9 percent in Elko; 90 percent in Esmeralda; 5.9 percent in Eureka; 7 percent in Humboldt; 30.8 percent in Lander; 21.8 percent in Lyon; 25.8 percent in Mineral; 30.7 percent in Nye; 12.7 percent in Carson City; 24.7 percent in Pershing; 51 percent in Storey; and 34 percent in White Pine.

Statewide, sales of automobiles and gasoline rose 19.3 percent; building materials were up 30.4 percent; and durable good were up 34.4 percent, the tax agency reported.

Sales in bars and restaurants, a key indicator of Nevada's tourism-based economy, rose 13.1 percent statewide. Such sales were up 14.8 percent in the Las Vegas area and 4.7 percent in Reno, the state's two main population centers and tourism anchors.