In little more than a decade, the Nevada economy has endured a Great Recession, a pandemic shutdown, and now, inflation.
Even as prices rise nationally at rates not seen in decades, UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research sees a glimmer of good news, predicting the easing of supply chain disruptions and other upward pressures on prices will help cool inflation in 2022.
“I think the headwinds will start to pile up against inflation continuing on,” said Andrew Woods, the center’s director. "It started very suddenly, and I think it may also dissipate suddenly at some point this summer."
Woods told State of Nevada that prices have whipsawed since the start of the pandemic when the cost of some items, such as gasoline and hotel rooms cratered.
“It almost feels like we jumped off a cliff, hit a trampoline and we're going the complete opposite direction,” he said, “and that that can be very head-spinning for everyone.”
A caller to the program said his rent and other costs are rising faster than his retirement income, something a top Las Vegas city official said was “becoming a very typical experience.”
Kathi Thomas, director of community services for the city, said, “We've got to have some long-term conversations around affordable housing, inclusionary zoning, and yes, maybe even rent control, because a significant proportion of our population is what we call rent burdened.”
Woods said rents are up 18% year over year on average nationally and 15.7% in Southern Nevada, with the median monthly rent at $1,275.
Tomas told the caller that there are rental assistance programs available and to contact her office at (702) 229-2330.
Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, said the private sector and Southern Nevada's geography could play a part in addressing the affordable housing issue.
"The one thing we do have here, is we've got plenty of land. We need to start using it for some affordable housing projects that pencil out," he said, "by the way, 'pencil out' means profit, because this is the United States of America."
Another pressing concern, he said, is the rising cost of gasoline, which he said is hurting some of his members.
"It's killing the guys that deliver things to the businesses, it's killing the landscapers, the truckers, and everything in between," he said. "So this has tremendous ramifications."
Guzman said some of his members are having to reduce their workforce or otherwise scale back their businesses because of increased costs.
"There's not enough time to be to figure out who to be mad at," he said. "They're just mad."
Diversity consultant Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson said, “People are really struggling in the pandemic. And quite honestly, minority communities are still recovering from the Great Recession, even though that was more than a decade ago.”
She said minorities had historically higher unemployment rates, even before the pandemic hit the Las Vegas hospitality industry and many are “really not being able to stay current on bills and making ends meet.
"People are having to max out credit cards or dip into retirement savings.”
Cobbin-Richardson said the stress surrounding the pandemic is taking a toll as economic issues become mental health issues.
“If you're not working, you can't pay for mental health treatment,” she said, “and so it just it becomes this vicious cycle.”
Kathi Thomas, director of community services, city of Las Vegas; Andrew Woods, director, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research; Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson, diversity consultant, former president of Nevada Partners; Peter Guzman, president, Latin Chamber of Commerce