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Signs of recovery seen in UNLV economic forecast | News

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Signs of recovery seen in UNLV economic forecast

LAS VEGAS -- The Silver State is still on the mend since the recession, but University of Nevada, Las Vegas economists say they expect improvements in the next two years.

UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Growth released a financial outlook report on Monday.

Casino revenue and residential construction are still off from pre-recession levels, as are car sales. The state also has the highest percentage of homeowners owing more on mortgages than their houses are worth, but overall the economy is on the mend.

Roy VanGuilder made a living as a performer on the Las Vegas Strip and then the economy tanked and he found himself saddled with a home worth less than he paid for it.

"The bubble was just getting bigger and bigger. It was just a bubble ready to burst."

The gap of what he owes and what his home is worth has narrowed as housing prices have started to climb back up.

"I'm getting closer, I'm probably about less than $10,000 from being back above water," VanGuilder said.

Economists say less than 30 percent of Nevada homeowners are now underwater compared to 70 percent in late 2009. There are also other positive signs.

"Lower oil prices are going to put about $2,400 extra in the average household's budget. I think that's really good news," said Dr. Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV.

Economists say lower gas prices and accelerating job creation has led to more disposable income for people. The UNLV report says Nevada is again among the fastest-growing states for employment. The biggest Nevada job industry gainers are construction, manufacturing, education and professional business services.

"It's encouraging," VanGuilder said.

Tourism employment is expected to reach pre-recession levels by 2016. And the number of visitors to Clark County this year could surpass a record 43.9 million set in 2007.

UNLV economists say 2015 and 2016 will both improve over the prior year.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)