Things are looking up for Las Vegas

Things are getting better in Las Vegas, but they’re not nearly as good as they were before the great recession.

That’s the message buried inside the numbers of the Las Vegas Perspective, an annual compilation of statistics about Las Vegas that gives insights into who lives here, what they do and how they do it. It covers everything from business to education, health care to housing, recreation to tourism.

Numbers guru JeremyAguero, principal at Applied Analysis, presented the stats with a positive spin. “What makes our community truly great is opportunity,” he said, noting Las Vegas is growing in population, in employment, in housing prices and even bragging rights, with UNLV winning the Fremont Cannon in its annual football rivalry with UNR.

Aguero cautioned that Las Vegas has still not recovered all that was lost in the recession. “It’s not all roses and sunshine. We’re not out of the woods,” he said. “We’re going to have to face the education issue. We’ve going to have to face the transportation issue.”

But, he stressed to the capacity crowd at the Four Seasons, things are looking up: “Now it is time to harvest what we have done. We have survived the worst economic downturn in our community’s history by a long shot. I believe 2014 will be our year.”

Among the highlights of the report:

• Population has increased to 2,062,253, an increase of 2.7 percent.

• People are moving to town for jobs, including jobs in the construction industry. That helped bring the valley’s unemployment rate down in 2013, and it should decrease further still this year, to about 8 percent. The No. 2 reason? To retire.

• Cost of living in Las Vegas is right at the national average, better than our regional competitors in Denver, Riverside, Calif., San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif., and San Jose, Calif. But it’s higher than in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.

• Most people who live here say the quality of life is “very good” (25.3 percent) or “good” (66.9 percent). Just 6.4 percent call it “poor” and only 1.4 percent call it “very poor.”

• Education, however, remains a problem. Aguero said education opportunity is not equal between urban schools and their counterparts in the suburbs. “We have neglected our education system for a generation,” he said. And that shows in the stats: 36.3 percent call local public schools “poor,” another 36.3 call them “fair,” almost 25 percent call them “good” but just 2.9 percent rate them “excellent.”

• The margin tax — a 2 percent tax on business sponsored by the Nevada State Education Association that will appear on the November ballot — will see a clash of Las Vegas’s preference for low taxes come up against the need to improve schools. Aguero called it the most important ballot initiative in the last decade, but the survey showed that while 67.9 percent of people said they were “very concerned” (and another 21.1 percent “somewhat concerned”) about education, a whopping 78.6 were unaware of the margin tax when initially asked.

• After hearing the details, voters broke down slightly more in favor of the tax (47.8 percent) than against it (44.4 percent), with just 7.8 percent providing no answer. Those numbers are likely to change after what’s expected to be millions spent on the tax in the coming election.

The Las Vegas Perspective is sponsored by 8NewsNow, Applied Analysis, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and Wells Fargo bank. Wednesday’s event was emceed by 8NewsNow anchor Paula Francis.