Las Vegas Learns To Mow Its Own Lawn

Nevada has gone from having the lowest unemployment in the US in 2006 at 4% to the highest now at 13.4%. Once again Las Vegas is proving to be a reflection of the country's wider problems, where the top end of the market never dropped out.
October 17, 2011, 11am PDT | George Haugh
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Dominic Rushe describes a unique situation where thousands of construction jobs have been wiped out and empty casinos at the northern end of the strip lie dormant, while seven Louis Vuitton stores within a seven mile radius are "kicking butt and having record months."

Jim Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts, the towns biggest casino firm, sees plenty of encouraging signs but, he says, "The remnants of the recession are still being felt today. You need look no further than the unemployment numbers or the foreclosure rate for homes. Prices have fallen 50-60% in some cases. Look at the tremendous pressure that's been put on public services, shelters, food banks."

The construction boom that underpinned growth in the last two decades is over and there is little new construction in the pipeline. The Pew Hispanic Center last year concluded that many of the illegal immigrants who did much of the heavy lifting during the growth years have left, and the numbers entering the US in general has dropped by two thirds. Las Vegas locals agree, and are now tending to their own gardens and pools.

After decades of "epic, unparalleled growth" this community was "hit as hard, if not harder than any community in the Unites States," he says. Now the top end of the market, which never really dropped, is back, empowered by the most luxurious services the city has to offer, and under-girding growth in areas like the private jet and helicopter industries. But the middle classes, still trapped by a weak job landscape and lack of credit, are yet to return in numbers.

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Published on Monday, October 17, 2011 in The Guardian
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