Gaming WireLas Vegas tourism is pretty much flat.

Through May, Las Vegas visitation is down year-over-year 0.2 percent, to 16.49 million people, from 16.53 million in 2012. May visitation rose 0.1 percent, to 3.46 million visitors, compared with 3.45 million in May 2012, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday.

Scott Russell, senior manager of research for the travel board, said the authority sees modest growth in visits this year, but he's still optimistic Las Vegas will attract 40.1 million visitors by the end of 2012.

"With limited (hotel room) inventory growth, it's hard to add more people," Russell said.

There's still room at the inn. Citywide occupancy year-over-year ticked up 0.4 points, to 84.7 percent. Month-over-month, citywide occupancy is flat at 86.6 percent.

Hotel occupancy in May was 89.6 percent, down 0.4 points from May 2012's 90 percent. May's motel occupancy was 60.2 percent this year, compared with last year's 57.1 percent.

Positives for the destination include growth in average daily rates and convention attendance.

The average daily room rate in May was $117.96, up from May 2012's $112.43. Year-to-date, the average daily room rate is $113.76, up from last year's $110.10.

May's convention attendance rose 8.2 percent, to 398,173 people, compared with May 2012's attendance of 367,899. Year-over-year, convention attendance is up 4.5 percent, to 2.51 million people, from 2.41 million in the prior year.

The number of conventions held in May increased 10.9 percent, to 1,932 shows, from 1,742 shows in May 2012. Year-to-date, the number of shows is up 8.3 percent, to 10,245 from 9,458 last year.

Tourism did add jobs

The Southern Nevada economy is about halfway through its third year of modest economic recovery, a trend that will continue this year and next, despite possible setbacks in real estate and tourism, according to a report Thursday from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The 2013 Midyear Economic Outlook by UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research found the region's 2.7 percent job growth last year was driven by improvement in tourism, gaming, construction and real estate.

Stephen Brown, director of the CBER at the Lee School of Business, said job gains posted last year ranked Nevada fourth in the nation. But those numbers were forecast to dip slightly, to 2.5 percent in 2013, before jumping to 3 percent in 2014, he said.

Nevada's unemployment rate stands at 9.5 percent, with Las Vegas at 9.8 percent. That rate in Nevada is expected to decline to 8.4 percent this year, before dropping to 6.9 percent in 2014.

"We are seeing improvement, but Nevada remains the state with the highest rate of unemployment in the nation," Brown told some 150 attendees of the Midyear Economic Outlook, a twice-yearly forecasting event held at UNLV's Stan Fulton Building.

Brown pegged the region's recovery to improved economic conditions nationwide. "Economic growth shows sign of traction," Brown said. "What we need is the financial sector to gain confidence in the economy. Up until this year, we really haven't seen the financial sector stepping up."

The report predicted U.S. growth at 3.3 percent in 2013. Brown said risks to the national recovery include fiscal austerity and budget problems in Washington; weak international growth; and rising oil prices and other commodity prices.

Brown also forecast visitor volume and gross gaming revenue in Clark County to continue to modestly improve through 2014.

Visitor volume last year reached 42.7 million and is expected to jump to 43.1 million this year and 43.7 million in 2014. Gross gaming revenue countywide last year was $9.3 billion, with economists expecting $9.7 billion in 2013 and $9.8 billion in 2014.

Revenue up but not bets

What seemed like a positive sign - a 6.39 percent increase in Strip gambling revenues during May - was downplayed by Wall Street Thursday.

After delving deep into the results, several analysts termed the month a disappointment.

"This is a decent headline number for the Strip, in our view, but driven by a mostly favorable table game hold results versus a year ago, and not volumes," JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff told investors.

Nevada gaming revenues grew 1.37 percent in May, to $897.2 million, the Gaming Control Board said Thursday. The increase followed a flat revenue month in April and two straight monthly increases in February and March.

Union gets pay raises

After expressing concerns about the cost of pay raises in coming years, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board voted 6-4 to approve a contract with the Service Employees International Union.

By approving the agreement, the board of directors went against the recommendation of its own compensation committee.

Collective bargaining negotiations began Feb. 4, and 95 percent of the union membership ratified the agreement June 11.

Among the 17 amended articles of the approved agreement were across-the-board annual pay increases of 3 percent through fiscal 2015, 2.5 percent through fiscal 2017, and 2 percent in fiscal 2018. The total impact of the increases is $2.75 million.

During the next five years, the authority expects to pay about $135 million in employee expenses related to the contract for items that include wages, pay increases, Medicare and health insurance.