Las Vegas: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Tourism drives the economy in Las Vegas, with 37 million people visiting the city each year. According to the University of Nevada's Center for Business and Economic Research Center, the figure for visitor spending in 2004 was a staggering $33.7 billion. In 2004, 20 percent of all jobs were gaming-related.

Though many miles away, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had a devastating effect on the Las Vegas economy, costing thousands who worked in the entertainment and service industries their jobs in the weeks following. While the city had mostly recovered by 2003, other problems had set in, namely difficulties in drawing tourists to the other aspects of the city, in particular the downtown area. Developments in 2004 and 2005 are helping to revitalize the downtown economy.

Constant population growth means that the housing construction industry is vitally important. In 2000 more than 21,000 new homes and 26,000 resale homes were purchased; more than one third of Las Vegas homes are only five years old or less. In early 2005 there were 20 residential development projects of more than 300 acres each currently underway.

While the entertainment and service industries are, collectively, the largest employers in Las Vegas, the major single employer is the Clark County School District.

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

To encourage industrial development, the Las Vegas business community works in cooperation with the state of Nevada to provide various incentives through minimal taxation, vocational training programs, no-cost site location services, special loan plans, and limited liability protection. The city is a foreign trade zone, making it an attractive foreign business destination.

State programs

In addition to Nevada's lenient tax structure, the state offers several programs to entice new business. Several tax abatement and tax deferral programs exist, as well as renewable energy abatements, industrial development bonds, global trade program, community development block grants, and others.

Job training programs

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation offers job training programs to both employers and job seekers, including applicant recruitment and screening, tax credit benefits, training programs and career enhancement programs, and labor market information. The Train Employees Now (TEN) program, administered by the State of Nevada Commission on Economic Development, helps new and expanding firms by providing intensive skills-based training programs tailored to the company's needs. The TEN program utilizes training providers such as local businesses and community colleges. Other programs exist through the area's educational institutions.

Development Projects

The 1990s saw major developments in the casino/resort area, with 18 new venues alone built in the last two years of the century, many themed after famous cities throughout the world. The race to build the most outrageous casino/resort in Las Vegas may be never-ending, but the area's more established resorts are quick to follow suit with expansions to match. When finished in late 2005, a $376 million expansion at Caesars Palace will include a 949-room, 26-story tower, which will bring the resort's number of hotel rooms to more than 3,300. Part of the expansion includes an addition to the resort's convention and meeting facilities, and upgrades to existing rooms and facilities.

Off "the Strip," the new Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel opened in December 2004 on Paradise Road adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center. It offers 548 rooms on 14 floors, a variety of amenities, and more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

Wynn Las Vegas opened in spring 2005, topping out at the world's most expensive casino resort with a price tag of $2.7 billion. On 217 acres and with 2,716 rooms—each at a minimum of 630 square feet and built at a price tag of one million per room—the hotel is extravagantly appointed. Wynn Las Vegas features an 18-hole golf course; its own Ferrari-Maserati dealership; an art gallery featuring the likes of Picasso, Vermeer, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Rembrandt; and 18 restaurants.

At any given time in Las Vegas, planned community developments are in various construction phases. Summerlin, one such community along the western rim of the Las Vegas Valley, is the fastest growing master planned community in the country. At 22,500 acres and with 16 separate villages each with its own major park, golf course, and schools, Summerlin will continue to grow with new homes and residents until approximately 2020.

As part of efforts to revitalize the downtown area, in 2005 the Internal Revenue Service moved into its new home in a 61-acre former railroad yard west of the casino district—an area targeted by city officials for development.

Economic Development Information: Office of Business Development, City of Las Vegas, 400 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89101; telephone (702)229-6551; fax (702)385-3128. City of Las Vegas Economic Development Division, telephone (702)229-6551. Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, 3720 Howard Hughes Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV, 89109-0320; telephone (702)735-1616; fax (702) 735-2011; email

Commercial Shipping

McCarran International Airport handles more than 600,000 pounds of arriving and departing cargo annually; the airport's Air Cargo Center offers cargo storage and handling services in a designated Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). Other warehousing and support services are available, including package support and U.S. customs service. More than 50 motor freight carriers serve Southern Clark County, which is the hub of an extensive transportation network serviced by three highway corridors consisting of Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 95, and U.S. Highway 93. Union Pacific Railroad runs northeast/southwest through the county.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The labor force in Las Vegas continues to expand as people move into the region in record numbers (approximately 6,000 each month). Las Vegas boasts the highest rate of new job growth in the country. The Las Vegas job base continues to expand at record rates; by December 2005 that rate was 8 percent, the fastest pace in the nation. The gaming and hospitality industries in Las Vegas are expected to continue to improve.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Las Vegas metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 811,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 400

construction: 88,100

manufacturing: 23,200

trade, transportation and utilities: 140,000

information: 10,200

financial activities: 46,000

professional and business services: 95,400

educational and health services: 53,900

leisure and hospitality: 247,600

other services: 23,500

government: 83,100

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $14.60 (Nevada average)

Unemployment rate: 4.0% (February 2005)

Las Vegas: Economy

Largest county employers Number of employees
Clark County School District 20,000+
Clark County 9,000-9,999
Bellagio Hotel & Casino 8,000-8,999
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino 7,000-7,999
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino 7,000-7,999
Mirage Hotel & Casino 5,000-5,999
State of Nevada 5,000-5,999
Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino 4,000-4,999
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police 4,000-4,999
University of Nevada, Las Vegas 4,000-4,999

Cost of Living

Nevada's low taxes make everything else cheaper: wages, rents, and energy costs. The average rent of a two bedroom apartment at the end of 2004 was $752 per month.

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Las Vegas area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 113.3 (U.S. average = 100.0)

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $353,798

State income tax rate: None

State sales tax rate: 7.5%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 7.5% (9% hotel room tax)

Property tax rate: 3.0815% of assessed value

Economic Information: Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, 3720 Howard Hughes Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV, 89109-0320; telephone (702) 735-1616; fax (702)735-2011; email info Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, Information Development and Processing, Research and Analysis Bureau, 500 E. Third St., Carson City, NV 89713-0001; telephone (775)684-0450; email