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Nevada sales up 4.2 percent in February

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Sales at Nevada merchants rose 4.2 percent in February compared with the same month last year, due in part to big gains in construction, accommodations and auto sales, the Department of Taxation reported Thursday.

The report said nearly $3.4 billion in goods were sold during the month, and the state collected $265 million in gross sales and use taxes on those items. The collections represent a 2.3 percent increase from February 2012. For the eight months of the fiscal year, collections are up 5.7 percent.

Statewide, 13 of Nevada's 17 counties reported increased taxable sales.

Sales in Clark County, the state's population hub and economic engine, totaled $2.4 billion in February, down 0.1 percent from the same month a year ago. In Washoe County, sales of nearly $430 million were up 8.1 percent.

Elsewhere, sales were up 1.1 percent in Carson City, 12.7 percent in Churchill County and 2.8 percent in Douglas County.

Some rural counties saw hefty increases or declines, though results there are often skewed by large purchases tied to mining or energy development.

Big gains were noted in the construction industry, where sales jumped 161.5 percent. The construction sector was particularly hard hit during the Great Recession and the implosion of Nevada's housing market.

Vehicle and part sales rose 8.2 percent in February, while home furnishings were up 6.9 percent and clothing and accessories rose 9.2 percent.

On the flip side, sales at general merchandise stores fell 9.4 percent.

Accommodations saw a 29.2 percent jump, but bar and restaurant sales dropped 3.8 percent. Both are key indicators on the health of Nevada's vital tourism industry.

While sales and tax collections were up, the report noted the portion of sales taxes that help fund state government is $8 million less than projections the Economic Forum made in the fall. The independent panel is charged with predicting tax revenues on which the state budget is based.

The forum is scheduled to meet Wednesday to make a final forecast for the next two years. It will be the last forecast state lawmakers receive as they slide into the final month of the 2013 legislative session and complete work on a two-year budget.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a $6.5 billion general fund spending plan for the biennium that begins July 1.