CARSON CITY — The chief state economist predicted today that Nevada will lose nearly 90,000 more jobs during the next two years, while the state demographer said the state population could decline by another 100,000 people over the next five years.
“We are really in unprecedented times,” economist Bill Anderson told the Economic Forum. “We have never gone through this kind of economic downturn.”
Demographer Jeff Hardcastle even apologized to the five forum members in announcing he was bringing more bad news.
Anderson said that Nevada lost 118,000 jobs, or 9.5 percent of its overall total, in 2009. He predicted 65,000 more jobs will be lopped off in 2010, followed by 24,000 job losses in 2011.
While Nevada’s announced unemployment rate was 13 percent, Anderson said studies show it could be 75 percent higher if you included the number of people who out of frustration no longer look for jobs and the number of people who hold part-time jobs when they would prefer to work full time.
Hardcastle — who in December reported a 1 percent decline in the state’s population in fiscal year 2009 — said the population could decline by another 100,000 to a population of 2,610,000 in 2015, depending on the availability of jobs.
If more jobs are available, then he said the population could increase by 115,000 to 2,827,000 in 2015. Under any scenario, population growth in Nevada, once the fastest growing state, no longer will be a “revenue driver,” he said.
“At this point, I don’t have a firm answer the way things will go,” Hardcastle said.
Based on these analyses and forecasts of others, the Economic Forum will determine today how much money will be available for state government to spend between now and June 30, 2011. Its decision is not expected until late in the afternoon.
When it met on May 1, the forum, a group of five business leaders, predicted total tax revenues during the two-year budget period of $6.3 billion.
But because of continued declines in sales, gaming and other taxes, the Gibbons administration has predicted that figure will drop by $450 million and require the governor to call the Legislature into a special session to cut spending.
Gibbons is scheduled to meet again with legislators on Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, has called for legislators to meet with the governor in early February and set matters for a special session.
In a news release Thursday, Gibbons blamed the Democrats for the state’s fiscal problems. During the 2009 session, legislators overrode his vetoes and increased taxes by $1 billion.
The governor himself, however, let a $219 million increase in the room tax rate go into effect without his signature.
“Nevada government must reduce its spending. Just like everyone at home, the state of Nevada must live within its means,” Gibbons said Thursday.
“The Democrat-controlled Legislature raised taxes and increased spending, while I stood by my promise to the voters by vetoing their higher taxes and spending. But they wouldn’t listen and now we have to endure the consequences of their actions,” he said.
But Gibbons, who will set the agenda for a special session, cannot pass anything without support of Democrats, who hold a 28-14 advantage in the Assembly and a 12-9 edge in the Senate.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.