Economist to Reno: Things are not as bad some would have you believe

Fears about a recession may not apply to Nevada, an economist says.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:28 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - There’s little doubt many Americans are worried about the direction of our economy. That may be due to a common narrative in the national discourse that we’re headed for a recession.

That’s not necessarily true says Dr. Christopher Thornberg.

In fact, here in northern Nevada, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

“The manufacturing numbers, the manufacturing jobs are up almost 100 percent in the last 5 years in the region,” notes Thornberg. “Information jobs are doing great. Construction jobs are up. Professional services jobs are up. It’s a different kind of growth you’re seeing up here in the Reno area.”

Thornberg, a noted economist, was speaking Wednesday to local business leaders at First Independent Bank’s Winter Economic Forum.

What we feel about the economy, good and bad, often doesn’t reflect reality, he says, and the political rhetoric we hear is to blame.

“Political rhetoric in the United States boils down to: ‘Your life is terrible. It’s all the other party’s fault, so elect us.’ We need to be smarter about that as electors. For example, stop voting on party lines.”

His advice: look to the facts and make up your own mind.

When it comes to our local economy it’s diversified and doing well. “You look at the relative numbers between here and Vegas. Vegas got absolutely pummeled because they truly depended on tourism. But Reno has a whole other real part of the economy. The big move of tech into the manufacturing sector, the extension of that I-80 corridor continues to be alive and well.”

But we’re not free of real concerns, specifically about a housing shortage.

“I constantly hear this: we don’t have enough affordable housing. No, you don’t have enough housing. If you don’t build enough housing, the affordability gets bad. Reno has a small economy, but it has the potential to become a mid-major very quickly because of the money pouring in the potential. But the key to that is a housing supply to continue to make this place able to bring the people in it needs for its potential phenomenal economic growth.”