Merchants sold $4 billion in goods during the month, on which the state collected gross revenues of $315 million, an increase of nearly 8 percent, the agency said. December marked the sixth straight month of improvement over the same month in the previous year and the first double-digit increase since February 2006, when consumerism was in high gear before the Great Recession sent Nevada's economy into a tailspin.
But Taxation Director Dino DiCianno said the report should be viewed with caution and not a clear sign that Nevada's economic doldrums are over.
"It's a mixed bag," he said. "We're comparing a much better month to a month that was pretty bad," he said.
While Nevada's economic decline may have bottomed out, "let's not get overly excited yet," DiCianno said.
"Is the sales tax turning around? Yes. Are we out of the woods completely? No."
DiCianno attributed much of gain to construction of the Ruby Pipeline, a $3 billion natural gas pipeline being built from Wyoming to Oregon. Parts of it will cross three northern Nevada counties — Elko, Humboldt and Washoe.
The report shows taxable sales In Elko county of $295.6 million in December is a nearly 120 percent increase over the same month in 2009. Likewise, Humboldt's sales totaled $161.5 million, up nearly 150 percent.
Still, the report showed other uplifting signs for some of Nevada's key industries, and 16 of Nevada's 17 counties reported taxable sales gains.
In Clark County, the economic engine of the state that includes Las Vegas sales at bar and restaurants totaled $416.3 million, up 17.6 percent, while accommodations rose to $156.3 million, up 13.7 percent.
Clark County reported total sales of $2.7 billion, up 2.8 percent.
Statewide, bar and restaurant sales rose 15.2 percent. Other industries reporting strong gains were auto sales, up 12.3 percent; durable goods, up 10 percent; clothing and accessories, up 6.5 percent.
Nevada's construction industry, hard hit by the recession and the housing market meltdown, was down nearly 11 percent.
Elsewhere around the state, sales rose 5.6 percent to $546 million in Washoe County; 4.9 percent in Carson City; 1.2 percent in Churchill County; and 0.3 percent in Douglas County.
Lincoln County was the only one to post a loss, down 26.5 percent.
Wednesday's report also said that gross sales and use tax collections are up 4.7 percent for the first six months of the fiscal year that began July 1. For the six-month period, the 2 percent that goes to the state general is 2.25 percent, or $8.8 million above projections made in December by the Economic Forum, an independent panel of finance experts who project revenues on which the state budget must be based.