Las Vegas has become so average.
The 5 percent job growth that gave the city the nation's fastest-growing economy in 2005 and 2006 has evaporated, with a meager 0.8 percent job-creation rate in its place by the end of 2007. December's local job formation couldn't even match the national rate of 1 percent.
But the state's employment agency reported Wednesday that Nevada's -- and Las Vegas' -- job growth should return to its boomtown form in two years.
The state Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation said "a developing megaresort boom, coupled with a likely improvement in the housing sector," will push Nevada's job growth to 5.1 percent in the third quarter of 2010. That'll be up from 1.4 percent in 2007 and 4.7 percent in 2006, though not as high as 2005's 6.3 percent.
The department's analysis is limited to statewide numbers, so it doesn't offer a separate forecast for Clark County.
Yet, Bill Anderson, the department's chief economist, said job formation in the Las Vegas Valley typically surpasses statewide growth.
"It's logical to assume growth would be above average in Las Vegas, especially when you consider the catalyst for a good deal of the state's growth will be the upcoming wave of megaresorts (on the Strip)," Anderson said.
Brian Gordon, a principal in the policy- and economic-research firm Applied Analysis, called the department's projections "on point."
Around 40,000 hotel rooms are scheduled to come on line in Las Vegas in the next five years, and 2010 will mark the first full year of operations for some of the biggest new megaresorts, including CityCenter and Fontainebleau. The 100,000 or so positions that new projects will create will boost the valley's 965,000-worker job base by 10.4 percent.
"The opening of several major properties will create substantial demand for employees," Gordon said.
And those new resort workers will spur demand for nongaming services such as banking, housing, education and health care.
The employment department is forecasting job growth in financial services, transportation, utilities and professional services, which include law practices, accounting firms and architecture studios.
Those brighter prospects for job growth are welcome news to Sandra Victor.
Victor is president of Executive Sweets, a Las Vegas company that sells treats to resorts, banks and other companies for business events, corporate gifts and trade shows.
Sales at Executive Sweets have slipped about 2 percent so far this year, as consumers and business executives have limited discretionary spending.
But Victor is already looking forward to 2009 and 2010, when she hopes to lasso her company's fortunes to resort-sector growth.
She's looking to provide custom-made chocolates for grand openings and promotional events. And, as hotel-casino expansion propels the city's overall economy, she also expects a broader boost in consumer and corporate demand for her company's chocolate-covered potato chips and chocolate-covered Oreos. With the improved business, the staff roster at Executive Sweets could triple from its current five full-time and 25 seasonal positions, Victor said.
"We're going to struggle a little (now), but we'll make it, and business will pick up when we get back to a booming economy," she said. "Hopefully, it'll work its way back to its normal level. We've really been spoiled in the past by the economy here."
Victor may not have to wait until 2010 to see an uptick in business, Gordon said.
Though he agreed that 5 percent annual job creation won't likely return for another two years, the number of new positions should improve on 2007's dismal growth rate by late 2008.
That's because several smaller projects, including the 600-unit Palms Place condo-hotel and the 1,300-unit Trump International Hotel & Tower, will open in March, and bigger projects will begin staffing up toward the end of the year for openings in late 2008 and early 2009.
The employment department is predicting 3.2 percent job growth in 2009.
Victor said she saw faint signs of better business early Wednesday, though she wasn't sure the change was permanent.
"I've been sitting at my desk writing orders all morning, and that's unusual lately."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at email@example.com or (702) 380-4512.