Nevada no longer fastest growing – but still expanding
After outpacing the rest of the country for almost two decades, Nevada has been bumped as the fastest-growing in the nation by Arizona, leaving the state in second place and its population turnstiles still spinning.
Arizona topped Nevada’s growth rate by 0.1 percent, according to estimates released Friday by the Census Bureau.
Despite the loss of bragging rights, Nevada’s growth continues at a breakneck pace more than three times the national average and shows no signs of stagnation, officials said.
“There’s been no slip in our growth rate. It’s just that Arizona picked up the pace a little bit,” said state Demographer Jeff Hardcastle, at the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.
According to the Census Bureau, Nevada’s population grew 3.5 percent from July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006, when it gained 83,228 new residents to reach 2.49 million.
Arizona grew by 213,311 residents to more than 6.16 million. The nation as a whole grew 1 percent, or 2.89 million, to 299.39 million people during that time, the report said.
“Even if we were to start slowing down to 3 percent, we’re still having large numbers of people move here every year,” Hardcastle said.
In Nevada, births were roughly twice the number of deaths, accounting for an overall gain of 18,316.
Most of the growth came from people arriving from elsewhere. Domestic migration totaled 53,105, while 12,488 came from other countries, the figures show.
Jon Wardlaw, assistant planning manager for Clark County – the state’s most populous – said the ranking is irrelevant.
“Does it mean anything if we’re No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3? Not really,” Wardlaw said. “Our slowdown is everybody’s target goal.”
Tim Rubald, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, agreed.
“I don’t see that as a big deal,” he said of Nevada’s slip after topping the nation for 19 straight years. “It won’t effect any economic development efforts.
“We’re all about developing high quality jobs, not just growth” he said.
And it’s jobs that continue to feed Nevada’s influx of residents.
In the north, light manufacturing, tourism, warehousing and transportation industries are spurring jobs, while the economy around Las Vegas is fueled by the hotel and gambling sector.
Some 40,000 new hotel rooms are planned or under construction in Las Vegas, Hardcastle said. Each room generates roughly 1.5 direct new jobs, and one job elsewhere within the community.
Rubald said for the past few years, Nevada has been the only state to increase its manufacturing sector, and he’s interested to see if that trend continues.
“I’d rather have that title,” he said.
While the housing market in Nevada – like the country as a whole – has softened, it’s still relatively strong, officials said.
“Our market remains probably twice as good as the national market,” Wardlaw said.
In southern Nevada, homes are on the market 30-45 days before they sell, while nationally, the average is about 6 months, he said.
In that regard, Rubald said a slight ease in growth could be good.
“It would allow us to deal with some of the housing stock that we have,” Rubald said.
“I think it would actually be healthy for us to slow down a bit.”