Here We Grow Again
The May issue of Business 2.0 has ranked Las Vegas No. 2 on its list of "America's best jobs in the hottest markets," forecasting a two-year job-growth rate of 6.5 percent in the city. That projected job formation is second only to the 6.8 percent that the magazine's editors expect to see in Orlando, Fla.
The publication's analysis noted that job formation in Las Vegas could actually outstrip job creation in Orlando, because Las Vegas is "uniquely insulated from downturns in ways that most cities would envy." With a sixth of Southern Nevada's work force in construction and Las Vegas real estate, the magazine said, the local economy suffered when the housing market faltered in 2006. But the gaming industry has compensated for the housing dip with restaurant openings and hotel expansions.
Casey Shields, area sales manager for The Eastridge Group of staffing agencies in Las Vegas, agreed that commercial building is pushing Southern Nevada's expansion.
Business 2.0's roster of the hottest jobs in Las Vegas reflects the importance of construction and hospitality to the local economy.
Top positions include construction project manager, with an average annual salary of $78,800; construction superintendent ($71,900); civil engineer ($70,000); and executive chef ($65,500).
But Business 2.0 also recognized Las Vegas' tech sector, placing information-technology project manager among its hottest local jobs. The position typically pays $74,600 a year in Las Vegas, the magazine said.
Locals-casino giants Boyd Gaming Corp. and Station Casinos appeared on the magazine's list of "who's hiring now." Also cited were MGM Mirage, which will hire 28,000 new workers by 2010, online shoe retailer Zappos.com and hospitality-technology firm InfoGenesis.
Business 2.0 also pointed to strong hiring activity among high-tech companies relocating to Las Vegas, where the cost of a tech-sector worker, including salary, training and benefits, is about 20 percent lower than costs in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Craig Kurtzman, a local branch manager with the placement firm of Robert Half International, said several factors are contributing to an expanding technology industry in Las Vegas.
First, the city is attracting new businesses in every field, and those companies need information-technology services. Second, more businesses are implementing security measures online and in their networks. Finally, businesses are increasingly upgrading their technology, and they need experts to install new programs and transfer their existing data to updated systems.
Demand for workers isn't limited to project management. Kurtzman said he's also filling requests for senior system developers and workers who specialize in data integration.
"The growth has almost outpaced what the talent pool is providing," Kurtzman said.
The imbalance between supply and demand in the work force is making it difficult for companies to fully staff operations.
Construction companies are launching bidding wars even for office personnel, Shields said, with administrative workers in the building business fielding multiple offers and counteroffers.
The competition for workers is just as tough in the tech field.
Nicholas Jones, president and founder of Web services company Load.com, said it's "very hard" to find qualified tech workers in Las Vegas. Load.com will have enough business in the next two years to double in size, from 14 workers to 28 employees, Jones said, but expanding will depend on available talent, Jones said.
"We do have to do quite a bit more testing," said Jones, whose company analyzes Web-visitation statistics for the Review-Journal.
"It's just been a challenge. We are looking for talented individuals, but they don't have to be perfect. We find diamonds in the rough, people who have the ability to think. We're willing to train them to get them up to speed."
Employment experts say companies looking to draw top talent in a hot jobs market should offer competitive pay and creative benefits.
Some businesses are serving up free lunches and more vacation days, Shields said.
Others are fostering a more pleasant work environment, Kurtzman said.
"You have to make sure that employees feel excited to come to work every day," he said. "(Software and system) developers especially want the freedom to create and to express their ideas, and they want to be in an environment that allows them to grow their skills."