State Demographer releases population projections

10/12/2010 - By: Claudene Wharton

The Nevada State Demographer’s Office at the University of Nevada, Reno has released its most recent population projections for Nevada and its individual counties, projecting through 2030.

Because of the very uncertain economic climate, for the first time, State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle is presenting two different sets of projections. One projection is a low-employment scenario and is based on work done with the Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) model. The other projection is a high-employment scenario based on data from Moody’s.com. Though the two differ in the long term, both paint a bleak scenario for the next few years.

“While the long-term projections differ between the two, both show the same short-term results,” said Hardcastle, who is housed in the Nevada Small Business Development Center in the University’s College of Business. “The two projections show a net loss of almost 54,000 people by 2014.”

The similarities using the two different sets of data stop there. From 2015 to 2030, using the more pessimistic REMI model data, the state’s population could grow as little as 14,000, an insignificant gain for a 15-year period. Using the more optimistic Moody’s data, the state’s population could grow as much as 1.2 million during that same period.

Overall, Hardcastle says change will be uneven across Nevada. Population estimates for northwestern Nevada (Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Washoe Counties) are uncertain for the next 20 years, ranging from losing 4,000 people to gaining more than 100,000. Southern Nevada (Clark and Nye Counties) could grow by 27,000 to more than 1.1 million over the next 20 years.

To achieve the highest projections given, Hardcastle says that southern Nevada will still need to see a substantial resurgence of its bread-and-butter industry – hospitality and gaming. That industry and the construction industry are key considerations in projecting population estimates for both northern and southern Nevada, he says.

“At one point, we had 88 percent higher employment in the construction industry here in Nevada than the national average. That’s how dependent we were on that industry, along with gaming.”

Hardcastle says population projections in rural Nevada (Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Mineral, Pershing and White Pine Counties) are also shaky, and will mainly be dependent upon whether these areas can continue to ride the wave of the current growth in its mining industry over the next 20 years. He emphasizes that job creation is what will determine which scenarios play out throughout the state.

“From May 2007 to January 2010, Nevada lost more than 190,000 jobs,” he said. “To bounce back from that, it’s going to take a lot of job creation. We need to be having discussions about what are the jobs that will replace those that we have lost.”

When trying to project population estimates for the state, Hardcastle says the following questions needs to be considered:

  • How soon will employment recover for the country as a whole, and Nevada in particular?
  • What kind of jobs will make up any employment recovery, and what skills will they require?
  • How mobile is labor? How willing are people to relocate and do they have the resources to do so?
  • What economic, social and physical infrastructure is needed to support growth in Nevada?
  • What capacity is there to fund our infrastructure and how willing are we as a state to invest in our future?

These population projections are used in preparing the state’s budget and for other planning purposes. A draft of the projections was sent to local governments and other interested parties for comment. The complete projections can be viewed at Nevada State Demographer October 2012 Projections.

The State Demographer’s Office is part of the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business, and is funded by the Nevada Department of Taxation.


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