Demographer says NV population down 70K over 2009 |

Demographer says NV population down 70K over 2009

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A state demographer says Nevada’s population has dropped by an estimated 70,000 residents since 2009.

Jeff Hardcastle says about 50,000 of those have left southern Nevada’s Clark County.

Population experts attribute the losses to nearly four years of recession that have resulted in job losses and home foreclosures. They say a high birthrate has helped reduce, or flatten, the decline, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

“People moved here for economic opportunity, so we expected them to leave when some of those opportunities ran out,” said Jeremy Aguero, principal of the consulting firm Applied Analysis.

The state’s official population figures will be released through the U.S. Census Bureau in December. Population numbers are used to draw congressional and legislative district boundaries.

Experts say Nevada’s medium- and long-term population trends are very clear. Some believe the state has a bleak future, while others remain optimistic that a turnaround could be quick, or say the population losses could actually be an advantage.

Rob Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, moved to Las Vegas last year and thinks the worst is over both economically and demographically. He said the Washington-based firm Woods & Poole Economics is forecasting robust population growth – about 40,000 people a year for Clark County alone – through the middle part of the decade.

An expert in urban planning, Lang estimates the growth will be closer to 25,000 new residents annually and predicts some growth will come from a high birthrate among Hispanics.

Lang is optimistic about Nevada economic future, some of which he said have not yet been recognized.

Among the opportunities Lang said are the possible development of Interstate 11 to Phoenix, development of high-speed rail to Victorville, Calif., a new terminal at McCarran International Airport and continued development of renewable energy projects.

“Compared with Rust Belt cities, such as Pittsburgh, during their massive population losses, Lang said, “We have a better hand dealt to us.”

But other economists say the outlook for Nevada isn’t that bright, because the state’s unemployment rate has remained stagnate – a recipe for population flight. Unemployment in Las Vegas is 15 percent, but when workers who are involuntarily part time or who have quit looking are included, the figure is above 20 percent. Tourism has also taken a hit, while the region’s other main industry, construction, has suffered a near-fatal blow.

“The other shoe probably hasn’t dropped quite yet,” said Jim Russell, a Denver-based geographer who specializes in migration trends. “It should get worse,” he said, referring to population decline.