LAS VEGAS - Nevada's hardest-hit housing market has held the nation's highest foreclosure rate for months and the turmoil has resulted in record-low property values, a new business report released Tuesday shows.
The report by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas found Las Vegas housing prices have declined by 8.4 percent since May 2010. U.S. housing prices dropped by 4.7 percent during that period.
Housing prices in Clark County, where most of the state lives, dropped to 2000 levels last year. In contrast, housing prices were 20.6 percent higher in 2010 than in 2000 across the West.
Despite the gloomy housing news, the report concludes Nevada is on a slow path toward recovery, fueled by a growing tourism market and tepid economic recovery in other states and nations.
"What we are seeing is that job losses from firings, layoffs and firm closures have declined sharply," said Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, in a copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press. "What we have not seen is an acceleration in job gains from business expansions and start-ups."
Las Vegas saw 19 consecutive months of increased tourism as of September, nearly returning the city's visitor volume to 2007 levels. But the market remains different than that of pre-recession Las Vegas. The city is seeing more foreign visitors who are staying longer and paying higher room rates. During the first nine months of 2011, room rates were 10.7 percent higher compared with the previous year.
Sin City tourists have also changed in that they are gambling less and purchasing less from the retail shops in the casinos compared with previous years. For the first eight months of 2011, retail sales taxes in Clark County hotels off the Las Vegas Strip were down 18 percent compared with the same period in 2010. And the improved room rates seen this year were still 22.6 percent below the rates seen in early 2007, before the recession hit, the report states.
In all, Brown predicts the pace of economic growth will likely remain weak into the second half of 2012, but the United States will be able to avoid another recession.
The economic recovery has been underwhelming compared with those following previous recessions, he said. The gross domestic product has grown by 5 percent in recent years, compared with an average GDP growth of 9.1 percent during the previous ten economic recoveries.