Brookings report: Job growth in Las Vegas ‘flat’ after two good quarters

Any economic recovery in Las Vegas area remains ‘anemic,’ says report

Las Vegas-area employment levels fell slightly during the third quarter of 2011 after two consecutive quarters of job gains, indicating that any recovery in Southern Nevada remains “anemic,” according to Mark Muro, co-author of a newly released report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

“The Intermountain West’s output recovery accelerated in the third quarter, but outside of Utah tracked or trailed national trends,” read the latest issue of Brookings’ Mountain Monitor, which charts economic trends in a seven-state region that also includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Idaho.

The Salt Lake-Provo area economy, which benefits from an emerging high-tech manufacturing and health-care sectors, saw a 1.5 to 1.7 percent jump in gross metropolitan product, a measure of all goods and services produced in the region for the quarter ended Sept. 30. Economic activity expanded by 0.6 percent in Southern Nevada, which was slightly down from the growth rate in the previous two quarters.

“This whole recession has been a riddle as far as job growth in many places, and Las Vegas is no exception,” Muro said. “There were two decent quarters of job growth in Las Vegas, and now it’s flat. You’re relying on leisure and hospitality in Las Vegas so there’s been some growth there, but you lack the full complement of growth drivers.”

A recent report by Brookings Institution and SRI International calls for the adoption of a statewide strategy in Nevada for innovation and diversification, formation of partnerships with regional leaders, improvements in the range of economic development information available, development of initiatives that create economic clusters of employment and alignment of the state’s economic development policies and programs.

Despite increased economic activity throughout the seven states, the rate of growth paled in comparison to that found elsewhere in the country, with Denver, Boise, Phoenix and Tucson joining Las Vegas as having the slowest-growing economies in the nation.

“Diversification is critical, because you’re not participating in some sectors associated with greater growth,” Muro said. “It’s not that easy. It will take patience. It will take years. Other places have been working on this for decades. The region is new to this urgency.”

A report released Tuesday by UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research found that Southern Nevada was experiencing the end of its four-year economic decline and had begun to experience some economic growth, with “slight upward” job gains on the horizon due to an ongoing increase in tourism to the region.

The improvement was largely attributed to the recovery of regional visitor volume to nearly the level it reached in 2007, when a record 39 million tourists came here, according to Stephen Brown, author of the twice-yearly economic outlook.