The summer of 2021 exhibited many signs of growth for Southern Nevada’s economy. Most major indicators reported notable upward trends in recent months as the economy continues to recover from the significant impacts brought on by the pandemic.
The Southern Nevada workforce experienced positive growth through the summer months. Total employment climbed to an annual peak of 965,300 in August 2021. While this total represented a 9.7 percent improvement compared to August 2020, the region remained 71,000 jobs short of August 2019 levels. Moreover, employment grew faster in the earlier part of the year than it did in the summer. Between January and April, jobs returned at rate of 3.5 percent compared to 1.9 percent between May and August. The regional unemployment rate improved to 8.2 percent in August, the lowest level since the pandemic began. However, Las Vegas’ unemployment rate remained one of the highest in the nation among large metropolitan areas.
Job growth trends through the summer were broad across industries. The state’s core sector, leisure and hospitality, added 11,200 jobs between May and August, a 5.2 percent growth rate. Professional and business services added 8,300 jobs over the summer at a 6.0 percent growth rate, and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector added 3,700 jobs during that time, a 1.9 percent growth rate. While some sectors experienced slight declines, 18,100 jobs were added overall in Las Vegas from May to August, and since the employment low point in May 2020, the region has added 190,400 jobs out of the 274,800 jobs lost in early 2020.
Tourism in Las Vegas hit a hot streak through the early summer with the return of shows and concerts, the hosting of major sporting events and the grand opening of Resorts World Las Vegas before slipping slightly in August. Visitor volume climbed to an annual peak of 3.3 million visitors in July, just 10.4 percent below the July 2019 total, before dipping 9.2 percent in August to 3.0 million visitors, which was 16.2 percent lower than in August 2019. The recovery in visitation remained hindered by the slow return of convention activity and international travel restrictions.
The Southern Nevada gaming industry experienced its best stretch ever in terms of gross gaming revenue with three consecutive months topping $1 billion. The month of July 2021 marked an all-time high for gross gaming revenue at $1.16 billion. August saw a slight tapering off of gaming revenue at $993.4 million, which was likely related to the modest decline in visitors and visitors seeking out other entertainment offerings. Gross gaming revenue from the Las Vegas Strip was $625.7 million in August 2021, a 20 percent increase from August 2019. Meanwhile, gross gaming revenue in Las Vegas locals market area was $250.0 million, 41.2 percent higher than August 2019.
Hot summer temperatures did little to cool Southern Nevada’s housing market. The median sales price for existing single family homes rose from $385,000 in May 2021 to $405,000 in August 2021, a 5.2 percent gain. Since August 2020, the median single family home price has increased 20.9 percent, directionally consistent with national trends that have witnessed prices rise due to tight housing supplies and record-low interest rates that are increasing homebuying power.
Overall, the summer of 2021 provided reason for optimism for the Southern Nevada economy. The housing market continued to boom, employment steadily rose, and gaming revenue hit record highs. The path of the overall recovery will continue to hinge on the core tourism industry, which has the potential ebb and flow in response to broader economic and social factors. However, there is no question that 2021 will round out year as a marked improved from the prior one.