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September 24, 2017

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Signs of recovery seen in UNLV economic forecast

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Steve Marcus

A view of new home construction in Summerlin Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Nevada remains on the mend since the recession, but economists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who released their economic outlook Monday expect the state's condition to improve year over year.

The 60-page economic report from the university's Center for Business and Economic Growth considered the financial picture nationwide, statewide and in Southern Nevada.

Both 2015 and 2016 are expected to improve upon the prior year.

And both this year and next, economists expect growth in personal income, gross gaming revenue, employment, population and single-family housing permits.

The report dismissed characterizations that Las Vegas has a way to go before it's in as good of shape as it was before the recession.

"If one must find bad news, at least it's old and no longer very informative," the report said.

One goal is in sight, the report's authors pointed out: employment. Las Vegas will reach the same level of its pre-recession employment by 2016, the report said.

Surpassing heights not seen since 2007, before the recession started, remains the larger goal for other indicators, though.

Statewide, gambling and non-gambling revenue and residential construction are still off from pre-recession levels, as are car sales, according to the report.

Sales of cars nationwide have already risen above pre-recession levels, but they haven't seen a revival in Las Vegas, Clark County and Washoe County.

Also, Nevada still has the highest percentage of homeowners — 26 percent — who owe more on mortgages than their houses are worth.

The state's home prices dropped 61 percent between 2007 and 2012. Since then, prices have risen and continued to rise as the number of new residents flowing into the state based on driver's licenses outpaced the number of new homes sold since 2011.

Existing home prices are still too low to prompt another construction boom.

But they may still be low enough, even as they rise, to induce Californians looking to move, economist Esmael Adibi said before Monday's event.

Between 2005 and 2013, about 153,000 people left California for Nevada, not more than Texas, Arizona or Oregon, but more than Washington, Colorado and Utah.

Adibi, a guest speaker at Monday's outlook presentation and director of Chapman University's center for economic research in Southern California, said the neighboring state is also feeling healthier since the recession, which bodes well for Nevada, long-reliant on visitors from the Golden State.

Lower gas prices along with more employed workers willing to spend, will likely mean more Californians willing to drive to Las Vegas to spend that money, he said.

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