The Southern Nevada economy is in its fourth year of accelerating recovery with businesses growing, more people finding jobs, and more tourists visiting the area, according to the biannual economic outlook report released by the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).
Employment growth was significant in the Las Vegas metropolitan area in 2014 with an increase of 34,900 jobs, or 3.8 percent, over 2013. Employment gains were broad-based with construction, manufacturing, education and health services, and professional and business services particularly strong.
As a result of these gains, the Las Vegas unemployment rate has fallen sharply with the seasonally adjusted rate reaching 7 percent in December 2014. This is 2.2 percentage points below the December 2013 unemployment rate.
The trend is likely to continue, said Steve Brown, director of CBER. "We are likely to see an unemployment rate around 6 percent by the end of 2016."
Activity in the tourism sector shows a slight upward trend so far in 2015. For the first four months of 2015, Clark County visitor volume averaged 4 percent higher than the same time period in 2014. With continued growth, Clark County's 2015 visitor volume could exceed last year's high point of 44.3 million total visitors.
Visitor volume is slightly up in Las Vegas as well. In 2014, total visitors grew by 3.8 percent and set a new all-time high record of 41.1 million. For the first four months of 2015, Las Vegas visitor volume averaged 0.4 percent higher compared to the same time period last year.
CBER economists also noted gains in the residential real estate industry. Las Vegas housing prices have risen by 54.7 percent since the industry hit rock bottom in January 2012. Nationally, housing prices have jumped 29.8 percent during the same period.
Despite the gains, Nevada remains the state with the highest percentage of homeowners with negative equity in their homes. Nevada is followed by Florida, Arizona, Illinois, and Maryland.
Las Vegas housing is still affordable compared to the rest of the nation, which will contribute to positive economic growth, Brown said.
"Though we tend to think of low housing prices as indicative of a depressed market, low housing prices will help the Nevada economy grow," he said.
CBER economists also found:
- With relatively affordable housing in Las Vegas, employment gains continue driving population growth.
- Construction activity remains low in Clark County. Although housing permits have increased by 110.1 percent since 2011, residential construction is still far below its pre-recession peak.
- Despite recent gains, Las Vegas gaming is lagging well behind its national counterpart. U.S. gambling is above its prerecession peak, but Las Vegas Strip gross gaming revenue is still well below its prerecession peak.
- Visitor spending on nongaming activities in Las Vegas is more than three times that of gaming revenue.
The Economic Outlook conference, held twice each year, forecasts economic trends for the U.S., Nevada, Southern Nevada, and other select regions. CBER compiles and analyzes data from state employment, gaming, and tourism agencies to forecast economic trends.
For more information, visit the CBER website.