The Silver State’s Looking Golden

During the Great Recession, unemployment in Nevada “reached a high of 13.7 percent.” Since then, joblessness has plunged “nine full percentage points.” Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that between June 2016 and June 2017, nonfarm payroll employment increased by 3.8 percent in the Silver State — the best growth rate in the nation. Last week, Gov. Brain Sandoval boasted that “Nevada’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has improved markedly and ended this year’s second quarter with a record balance of $886 million, a far cry from the depths of the recession when the fund had a negative balance of $800 million.” Tax revenue is running ahead of expectations. Home values in Las Vegas are rising fast, the “demographics of Southern Nevada are growing increasingly young, diverse and wealthy,” the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center continues to land tenants, and even Pahrump’s experiencing a rebound.

In many ways, Nevada and New Mexico are alike. Scenic and warm, they attract tourists and retirees. Both have have high crime rates, appalling illegitimacy, abysmally poor student-achievement rankings, and low college-attainment rates.

Yet Nevada has long had a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Government leans libertarian — there is no income tax, no corporate tax, and the state’s right-to-work law was passed in the 1950s. Nevada’s now added the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use to its list of laissez faire lifestyle polices.

No state can — or should — perfectly emulate another. But there is much for New Mexico to learn from a neighbor to be found to the northwest. Social conditions may not be healthy in Nevada, but the state shows that a once-booming economy can get back on its feet, impressively, with very little “public investment.”

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