2009 Year in Review: Nevada hit hard by economic collapse
After nearly two decades of unfettered population and construction growth, 2009 turned out to be the year when the go-go days of the boom finally went kaput in Nevada, making the recession and its effects the biggest story of the year.
Nearly every economic indicator continued to plummet, from real estate values to gaming revenue to taxable sales in the once vibrant Nevada economy.
Unemployment reached new levels in the Silver State this year, pushing 13 percent in Carson City and more than 16 percent in Lyon County (the highest in the state, and among the worst counties in the nation), according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, amid a foreclosure crisis that has resulted in about two-thirds of Nevada homeowners going upside-down on their mortgages.
And while these problems have been brewing for most of the decade, said Elliott Parker, an economist at the University of Nevada, Reno, 2009 was the year when reality sank in – hard.
“We were growing so fast,” Parker said. “We’ve been operating under this belief that somehow we could keep growing like this.
“This was the year of coming to grips with that illusion.”
As of November, unemployment in Carson City had fallen to 11.2 percent, but that doesn’t mean more firms are hiring. Instead, Parker said it’s likely that more and more out-of-work Nevadans have stopped looking for jobs or are leaving the state in search of greener pastures.
“The trend isn’t positive,” Parker said. “I would say it’s no longer as negative. What we’re losing now are people.”
Many store fronts closed in 2009 in Carson City, such as Gottschalks and Fleet Feet, or failed to even open, such as the Sportsman’s Warehouse.
Coldwell Banker Commer-cial Premier Brokers released a study in June that found more than 1 million square feet of vacant industrial space in Carson City and 583,797 square feet of vacant retail space.
Meanwhile, the state has endured double digit declines in taxable sales for about a year, affecting state employee payrolls, which in turn, affects Carson City businesses’ bottom lines.
Parker said 2010 still will bring its share of bad news, but it will “be a trickle of bad news instead of a dam bursting.”
“On the whole, things will get better,” Parker said. “But there’s going to be bad news that happens.”
– Brian Duggan