Reno-area construction industry eyes fast-paced growth in 2018

RENO, Nev. — Nevada appears well positioned to keep up its fast-paced economic growth, especially its construction sector, into 2018 and beyond, industry experts told a Reno audience recently.

“Nevada is No. 1 in growth of construction employment. It’s a good sign for now,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, said at the recent annual Outlook event sponsored by the Nevada Chapter AGC.

But Nevada, including the northern region, still is 39 percent below its construction employment peak of 2006 before the Great Recession. And surrounding states, as well as the Las Vegas area of Southern Nevada, are growing fast.

“It’s a challenge you have for finding workers,” Simonson said. “You can’t pull from the Las Vegas market; they likely are pulling from you.”

Christopher Robison, supervising economist in the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the latest monthly data show Nevada’s overall job growth rate has exceeded the nationwide rate for five years running.

He and others said the demand for construction workers is helping pressure wages upward.

Robison said among statewide average wages per industry, construction is about in the middle at $1,096 per week. The highest weekly average is the mining industry at $1,556 and the lowest is leisure/hospitality at $619.

As for construction job growth, “We expect fairly steady through the end of 2019,” he said.

Brian Bonnenfant, project manager at the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, including Storey County, added a record 10,100 new jobs in 2016, many of them in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center east of Sparks.

He said the region needs to boost its bachelors-level educational workforce to keep up with rising demand for engineering and related positions.

He said from the broader economy viewpoint, the region’s overall employment prospects for the coming year “should be healthy,” and taxable sales, a key economic barometer, could be adversely affected by rising consumer debt.

On the region’s tourism front, Bonnenfant said he expects a boost in visitor counts in the coming year as the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority narrows its mission. He cited the RSCVA’s transfer, in the works, of the Wildcreek Golf Course in Reno to the Washoe County School District for a new high school there.

“If they can just concentrate on conventions and bringing people to town, that’s a good thing,” Bonnenfant said.


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