Is Nevada Finally Coming Out of the Great Recession?

Photo by Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services

Photo by Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services

The Great Recession has been in the rearview mirror of most big cities for some time, but here in Southern Nevada, the aftereffects lingered like, well, a hangover. Finally, though, it appears our Valley has received its economic IV: In May, our unemployment rate fell to 6.6 percent—the first time it’s dipped below 7 percent since June 2008. Ryan Kennelly, an economic analyst for UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, offers some facts behind the data.

Let’s start with the big question: Based on our unemployment figures from May, can we finally say that the recession is over?

The National Bureau of Economic Research declared the recession over for the United States as a whole in 2009. Southern Nevada didn’t begin to see job growth until the end of 2010. So we’re still in the midst of the recovery. As more people re-enter the labor force, we expect the unemployment rate to continue dropping the next couple of years, but at a slower rate than it has been.

Tourism has been up: How has that impacted the employment picture?

We can definitely see the effect of increased tourism on Las Vegas leisure and hospitality employment. Seasonally adjusted, leisure and hospitality employment increased by 5.4 percent in 2014, which was a faster rate of growth than [the city’s] overall employment for the year, [which was] 3.9 percent.

Your data indicate growth in construction and education/health care jobs. Do these increases bode well for efforts to diversify our economy?

Leisure and hospitality, along with construction and real estate, are Southern Nevada’s most important industries. Although the growth in education and health care services has been encouraging, it’s still a small piece of the overall picture. We expect health care to continue growing, especially with UNLV’s new medical school. Health care is one of the nine industries identified in the governor’s plan for economic diversity.

We saw strong growth for construction in 2014, and are seeing much of the same so far in 2015. Although we don’t expect construction to reach the booming pre-recession highs, the amount of growth we are seeing now will certainly help propel our economy forward.