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Nevada taxable sales surge 5 percent in March

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Nevada taxable sales surged 5 percent in March over the same month last year, signaling improved consumer confidence as the Silver State continues its long climb out of recession, the state reported Tuesday.

Merchants statewide sold $4.1 billion in goods in March, with big gains seen in sales of general merchandise, construction-related items, vehicles and accommodations, the Department of Taxation said.

The $320 million in overall taxes collected was up 6.7 percent. The portion that goes to the state general fund totaled $80.5 million — an increase of nearly 7 percent compared with March 2012.

"Growing Nevada's economy has been one of my administration's highest priorities, and today's taxable sales report shows that while Nevada is continuing on the road to economic recovery, our recovery is still fragile," Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in an email statement.

"We must continue our efforts to diversify our economy, create new jobs and get Nevadans back to work," he said.

In Clark County, sales of $2.98 billion marked a 6.8 percent increase in March. Washoe County, with sales of $498.6 million, posted a 7.1 percent hike.

Only five of Nevada's 17 counties — Elko, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Lyon and White Pine — reported decreased sales in March. Monthly reports from rural areas can vary widely because of large purchases by mining or energy development operations that can skew year-over-year comparisons.

Some sectors reporting strong gains included the construction industry, which saw sales shoot up 115 percent over March 2012. Nevada's construction industry was hard hit during the recession when the state's housing market collapsed after years of rapid growth.

Auto and vehicle parts sales rose 7.4 percent in March, while sales at general merchandise stores jumped 18.6 percent.

Clothing and accessory stores saw an increase of 8.6 percent; home furnishings were up 11.5 percent; and food and beverage sales rose 5 percent.

Accommodations, a key indicator on the health of Nevada's critical tourism industry, jumped 36.8 percent in March. Likewise, sales at bars and restaurants were up 5.3 percent. Both suggest consumers are more comfortable spending discretionary dollars.

For the nine months of the current fiscal year, total tax collections are up 5.8 percent.

The portion that goes to the state general fund is about half a percent, or $3.2 million, below the forecast made in early May by the independent Economic Forum. Those projections are used to set the state budget.

Along with sales and use taxes, the report said Nevada collected $97.3 million for Modified Business Tax, which are based on payroll and paid quarterly by state businesses and financial institutions. The March tax collections represented a 1.1 percent increase compared with the same quarter last year.

Excise tax collections paid on things such as liquor, tobacco and live entertainment totaled $106.4 million, up 2.3 percent when compared with March 2012, the report said.