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Many experts say that Las Vegas’ economy will see a slight uptick in 2012, mainly due to increased revenue from—you guessed it–gaming and tourism. In December, the Nevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation reported that Nevada’s unemployment rate fell for the first time in six months.

It appears that next year, our economy might start edging its way into recovery mode. About 1 percent growth in job opportunities. Better some increase than nothing, right?

But despite those small gains predictions we will still likely continue to float along the bottom. So what will this small, positive change in economic growth mean to Las Vegas?

And, more importantly: How do we turn this small uptick into jobs?

One of the road blocks, according to Stephen Brown, director of UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research, is that despite the fact that visitor volume is up in Las Vegas, they simply don’t have as much cash to spend.

Yet, getting the visitors here is the first step, he says. There’s simply less money to go around these days.


"What really matters now is not rooms but visitor volume,” Brown says. “As we fill up the rooms, people will be hired.”

"Nevada is known for being a low-tax state. That has been an advantage to Nevada in the past, and that will be an advantage in the future,” Brown says. Traditionally, he says, it was the large firms who created lots of jobs, but these days, it’s the smaller ones. The smaller ones, because they aren’t nearly as flush with cash, benefit greatly from Nevada’s low-business-tax environment.

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"The city is well-suited now for another Zappos,” he says. That would be great news, wouldn’t it?

James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics with the The Heritage Foundation, saysthat “the reason we have such high unemployment is not the job losses is the lack of job creation." By keeping low taxes on the rich, he says, “job creators” will be able to hire more people, thus creating a healthier economy overall.

Those successful people, rich businesspeople,  need to feel secure enough to use their ingenuity and big money to create more jobs, he says.

"We want to encourage success,” Sherk says. "It's through the free-market system of competition where the jobs come from."

John Restrepo, principal at RCG Economics, a consulting group, says higher-paying, available jobs will be key to a healthier economy. Nevada, he says, banked on the fact that a one-track economy, one based almost entirely on tourism, would thrive forever. That clearly isn’t going to work anymore, he says.

For an example, Restrepo points to the construction sector, which once provided lots of well-paying job to lots of people. It got to the point where, the old cliché came true, he says: “"Construction workers building houses for other construction workers."

The healthcare industry, he says, and a stronger public sector, will be the keys to our region’s job recovery and growth.

Still, the total loss of more than 150,000 jobs in just four years is going to take a long time to bounce back. It might be another five or 10 years before we see unemployment significantly lower than 10 percent, Restrepo says.

Brown says he agrees, that is, “unless we see a dramatic change in the national economy.”

How can we create more jobs in Las Vegas? Continue the conversation in the comment section below.

Stephen Brown, director, UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research
John Restrepo, principal, RCG Economics
James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics, The Heritage Foundation


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