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Economic report shows Las Vegas growth, optimism are on the rise

The Las Vegas area grew by nearly 100,000 new residents in the past two years and steady growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to a new economic report out this week.

Southern Nevada expanded to more than 2.06 million people in 2013, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to the 170-page Las Vegas Perspective, an annual publication from the local research firm Applied Analysis.

Those residents are feeling better about the economy and the future.

Jeremy Aguero, a principal with the firm, called the growth “remarkably important.”

“We’re doing the right things again,” he said. “Housing prices are starting to peak again. People are going back to work again.”

Clark County’s population growth is largely attributed to people finding work or moving to retire in Southern Nevada, Aguero said. Construction-related jobs marked the fastest growing segment of the population. Health and education service jobs marked the second fastest growing sector.

The population hit its previous peak in 2010, with about 2.04 million, but fell to 1.97 million in 2011 before climbing back. The only previous drop in population during the past 10 years was between 2007 and 2008, when Clark County lost about 10,000 residents.

Aguero and Brian Gordon, also a principal at the research firm, released an early look at the report Monday, with full details expected at an event to mark the publication’s 34th annual release Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel. Nevada First Lady Kathleen Sandoval is scheduled to address the role of education in economic growth. More than 500 business and community leaders are expected to attend the event, where the full report will be unveiled. Tickets are $90 in advance and $100 at the door.

Population and employment growth, along with increased income and spending, are fundamental to any economy, but Aguero said another key factor in the region’s recovery is consumer attitude.

The 2013 survey found that 38 percent of residents believe they are better off financially than they were a year before, and that 42.2 percent believed their financial status would improve in 2014.

“Consumer confidence has been driving our economy and helping pull us out of the recession,” Aguero said. “They believe that tomorrow’s going to be better than today, and they’re finding increased confidence.”

The analysts also studied health care, recreation, retail, tourism, and real estate.

The housing market bottomed out in 2011, according to the report. And last year, median home prices hit $300,469, a growth of 36.6 percent over the previous year. Those surveyed expect home prices to keep rising.

The number of new home sales jumped by more than 1,600 between 2012 and 2013, though existing home sales fell by nearly 5,000 during that period.

At the housing market’s peak in 2006, median home prices approached $300,000, and Gordon said that resale home prices are starting to flatten out in 2014. New homes could follow that trend, he said.

“The profile is much improved from where it stood in the depths of the this past recession,” Gordon said.

With Las Vegas’ population rising, Aguero said there is concern about how many people the area can sustain based on the water supply. Economically, however, the Southern Nevada could withstand at least a decade’s worth of growth, he said.

While the economy has not rebounded to peak levels, Aguero said, “you’d be hard pressed to say that those statistics would be anything but a recovery or a resurgence.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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