- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Taxable sales in Nevada rose 2.1 percent in January over the same month last year, helped in part by notable gains in the state’s tourism sector, the Department of Taxation reported Thursday.

Nevada merchants sold $3.5 billion in goods during the month. Taxable sales rose 4.1 percent in Clark County, to $2.6 billion from $2.5 billion. Northern Nevada’s Washoe County also had a big increase, up 7.5 percent to nearly $458 million from $426 million.

Nevada collected $277 million in gross taxes based on the total statewide sales.

Only five of Nevada’s 17 counties, however, posted gains, with most of the increases being realized in Nevada’s population centers. Rural counties often see wide swings in sales activity because of mining operations where the purchase of huge, expensive equipment can skew results month-to-month.

On the bright side, accommodations and sales at bars and restaurants had sizeable gains in January compared with the same month in 2013. Both are key indicators on the health of Nevada’s vital tourism industry.

Accommodations jumped more than 80 percent, with sales totaling $10.8 million, up from just shy of $6 million in January 2013. Bars and restaurants saw gains of 7.9 percent to $846.2 million from $784 million a year prior. Most of those hotel stays and wining and dining took place in Clark County, home to the Las Vegas Strip, where bar and restaurants reported nearly $738 million in business.

Auto and part sales also continued an upward trend, with sales up 6.8 percent in January. Sales of durable goods rose 3.5 percent, while home furnishings were up 5 percent.

On the downside, construction sales fell 16.7 percent. Sales dropped 9.2 percent at general merchandise stores; 5.2 percent at clothing and accessories stores; and 4 percent at food and beverage stores.

The portion of taxes collected that goes to the state general fund totaled nearly $70 million, an increase of 1.9 percent over January 2013, the department said.

For the fiscal year that began July 1, general fund sales and use tax collections are 2.2 percent or $12.4 million below projections made in May by the Economic Forum, an independent panel that forecasts various tax revenues on which the state budget is based.