Massacre Occurred as Las Vegas Was Still Emerging From Economic Downturn

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Las Vegas, on Sunday the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, is one of the last metropolitan areas in the country to fully recover from the Great Recession.

The city, nicknamed Sin City for its tolerance of vices, had been one of the last to rebound from the prolonged housing downturn. And because of the depth of the recession, the city, which is built on gambling and entertainment, suffered as people cut back on discretionary spending.

Still Las Vegas and Clark County, where the city is located, are among the fastest-growing areas in the nation.

Utah and Nevada ranked as the nation’s two fastest-growing states over the past year, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for 2016.

Nevada’s population rose 1.95% to 2.94 million as of July 1, 2016, and the population will top 3 million this year.

According to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story, Nevada was the nation’s fastest-growing state for 19 consecutive years before it was supplanted by Arizona in 2007. Nevada returned to first the following year, but slid down the list when the housing market collapsed during the recession.

Las Vegas was estimated to have 632,912 people as of July 1, 2016, based on Census estimates, an increase of 8.3% from 2010. Over the same period, the U.S. population climbed 4.7%. There are 4,298.2 people per square mile in Las Vegas, which has a land area of 135.82 square miles, compared with the U.S. average of 87.4. As a comparison, Las Vegas is just below Detroit in population (Detroit has 672,795) and square miles (142.9).

There has been an influx of mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants to Las Vegas, who are working in service jobs in hotels as well as in construction. Census data show that 33.6% of Las Vegas households speak a language other than English at home for people five years old and older, compared with the national average of 21%. There are almost 184,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin, or 31.5% of the population, in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is behind the nation in a few measures of income. The median household income in 2015 dollars is $50,202, compared with the U.S. average of $53,889. The poverty rate in Las Vegas is 17.5%, whereas the U.S. average is 12.7%.

The median pay gap between men and women in Las Vegas is more than $7,000, according to 2016 Census estimates ($30,359 to $23.025).

In terms of housing, Las Vegas trails the nation in several categories. The owner-occupied housing rate, 2011 to 2015, is 52%, compared with the national average of 63.9%. The median value of owner-occupied housing units was $168,800, compared with the U.S. average of $178.000. Renters are paying above the national average in Las Vegas, $975 to $928.

Things are looking up for the city’s housing market, though. August home prices for the Las Vegas metropolitan market rose 8.4%, the biggest gain for any U.S. metro area, according to property data analyst CoreLogic.

The city trails the nation in other measures as well. In education, 83.3% of Las Vegans graduate high school, compared with the U.S. average of 86.7%. And only 22.3% of Las Vegans have a bachelor’s degree, compared with the national average of 29.8%.

Health care is another area where Las Vegas lags behind the nation. Persons without health insurance account for 22.7% of the population, as opposed to 10.1% for the nation overall.

Besides gambling and entertainment, Las Vegas is also known for having one of the highest marriage and divorce rates in the nation, simply because it is easier to get married and divorced there.

Clark County was the third-fastest growing county in the nation, adding 46,375 residents — an average of 127 per day — between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, according to annual population estimates by the Census.

As of July 1, 2016, Clark County had just under 2.16 million people, a 2.2 % increase over the previous 12-month period.

Tourism supports 407,000 jobs, or 44% of the work force in southern Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Through August, the desert resort has had 28,541,867 visitors, down 0.9% from a year ago.

The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas and may begin to play there in 2019.

Many tourists get to Las Vegas via McCarran Airport, the eighth-busiest in the nation, according to the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, with almost 23 million visitors in 2016.

Gaming revenue in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, has risen 4.3% to $6,687,769,000 for the period ended in August.