Valley economic index decreases


Southern Nevada's economy entered "pause" mode as weakness in the construction and gaming industries is balanced by modest growth in other areas, a local economist said.

"It's a pause on the way down, I suspect," said Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Following a marked decline in March, the Southern Nevada Index of Leading Indicators fell slightly to 131.89 in April, based on data from February.

The index is down from 131.94 in March and down from 133.03 in April 2007.

Clark County gross gaming revenue dropped 4 percent from the same month in the previous year to $866 million and taxable sales declined 3.1 percent to $2.76 billion.

On the positive side, residential building permits increased 15.6 percent to 1,530 units, visitor volume grew 3 percent to 3.11 million and convention attendance jumped 15.8 percent to 893,982 in February.

The index, compiled by the Center for Business and Economic Research, is a six-month forecast from the month of the data, based on a net-weighted average of each series after adjustments for seasonal variation.

The accompanying Review-Journal chart includes several of the index's categories, along with data such as new residents, and employment and housing numbers, updated for the most recent month for which figures are available.

Schwer said the index foretells midyear weakness.

"It could always be worse," he said Thursday. "There are a few of us who remember rougher times during the '70s and '80s when unemployment was quite a bit higher. It's a question of making sure your seatbelt is securely fastened for the bumpy ride ahead."

Las Vegas, regarded in the past as a city that has been somewhat immune to downturns in the national economy, failed to make Forbes.com's list of the nation's top 10 recession-proof cities.

The No. 1 recession-proof city was Oklahoma City, Okla. With falling unemployment, one of the country's strongest housing markets and solid growth in agriculture, energy and manufacturing, it looks best positioned among the nation's largest metropolitan areas to ride out the current crisis.

A separate Clark County business activity index peaked in October and has drifted lower. Recent activity has been "rather tepid," especially compared with the torrid pace of 2005 and 2006, Schwer said.

The county's tourism index turned in another "lackluster" peformance for February, even with an extra day in the month for leap year, he said. Evidence suggests that some weakness lies ahead, reflected in lower average room rates and slower convention bookings.

The construction index moved up for February, largely a result of the bump in residential permits.Schwer will present his Midyear Economic Outlook June 25 at the World Market Center. Cost is $80. Call 895-3191 to register.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.