At the LVBP: The casino cavalry

I’m full of good cheer over at the Las Vegas Business Press, where I start by looking at where the employment numbers are now and where they seem to be heading:

In July 2007, perhaps the high-water mark of the 2004-07 boom, more than 1.2 million Nevadans were working; slightly less than 27 percent of them were in hospitality. This might have been a sign that the state was diversifying, however slowly. But it also reflects an increase in construction workers busy building new casinos and hotels.

Two years later, the numbers for July suggest that the percentage of Nevadans working in leisure has continued to fall. Despite massive job losses in construction, leisure workers accounted for more than 25 percent of working Nevadans.

This makes hospitality the states biggest industry, but its worth noting that in the past 10 years the percentage of Nevadans working in it has fallen about 5 percent.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Job seekers shouldnt wait for the casino cavalry; its not coming.

My quick summary is that while Las Vegas gaming and tourism will likely continue to employ many people, there’s no way (minus a landscape-altering shift) that casinos alone are going to return Las Vegas to the rates of job growth that we’d been seeing over the past two decades.

It’s not a doom and gloom scenario–it’s one that I think is a realistic extrapolation of trends that started independent of the current downturn. Since the state’s economy is so heavily dependent on gaming and tourism, I throw this out there as a small policy suggestion: casinos cannot be the golden geese in Nevada’s future.

Of course, unpredictable events can make a hash of any predictions, so it’s possible that five years from now the casino industry will be employing 100,000 more people than it does today. That would be after the federal government offers Americans a $10,000 annual tax credit against travel to Las Vegas, and Las Vegas alone. I’m not saying it’s even probable, but it is possible. This is one of the reasons that I generally shy away from making predictions: there’s just too much that we can’t account for. Even within the highly-contained world of sports prediction, for example, the best professionals can correctly guess the outcome of a game less than 60% of the time. And that’s a system where virtually all the variables are known. Once you get out into the real world, predictions are (in my humble opinion) generally useless.

That being said, I’m not making a prediction–I’m pointing out a trend that I think should be of interest to Nevadans.

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