Nevada sales plunge nearly 18 percent

Taxable sales in Nevada plunged 17.8 percent in October compared with the same month last year, marking the 12th straight month of double-digit declines, the state Department of Taxation reported Wednesday.

Nevada merchants sold about $3.1 billion goods on which the state collected sales and use taxes of $241 million, a decline of $33.5 million or 12.2 percent from October 2008.

For the first four months of the fiscal year that began July 1, taxable sales declined 19.7 percent, the report said, and the state's general fund portion of those revenues is $18 million below projections made in May by the Economic Forum.

Under state law, projections by the Economic Forum, an independent panel of business leaders, must be used to set the state budget.

Wednesday's grim news comes as Gov. Jim Gibbons awaits new revenue projections before deciding if a special legislative session is needed to address the state's fiscal problems.

In a written statement, Gibbons said the latest report continues "to illustrate the effects of high unemployment rates, cautious consumer spending and an overall decline in business activity."

Gibbons last week asked state agencies to prepare plans for cutting up to 10 percent of their budgets.

Sales and taxes collected on casino winnings account for the bulk of the state's general fund. Casino revenues in October fell 11.6 percent compared with the same month in 2008, and have been on decline for 22 months.

The state budget office Wednesday said the overall deficit for the fiscal year to date is $72 million.

Only two of Nevada's 17 counties, Humboldt and Storey, reported positive sales for the month.

Sales in Clark County, the state's largest population hub that includes Las Vegas, fell to $2.2 billion, a 19 percent drop. In Northern Nevada, sales in Washoe County, which includes Reno were $428.5 million, a 10.5 percent decline.

Elsewhere, sales fell 15.2 percent in Carson City; 40.8 percent in Churchill County; 15.9 percent in Douglas County; and 12 percent in Elko County.

Most major industries reported declines, the report said.

Sales fell 39 percent in construction categories, while durable goods dropped nearly that much and sales of motor vehicles and parts declined 14.1 percent.

Home furniture and furnishings sales dropped 19.3 percent, while clothing and accessories reported a 4.2 percent gain.

Sales at food services and drinking places, a key barometer of Nevada's tourism driven economy, fell 8.9 percent statewide, and 9.2 percent in Clark County.


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