Retail workers, the most common job in the Las Vegas metro area, don’t earn enough to afford a studio, let alone buy a home, according to recent data from UNLV researchers.
They aren’t the only workers in Nevada to be overpriced and struggling with housing affordability.
A fact sheet released this week by Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute at UNLV shows that the overwhelming majority of those employed in the state’s major occupations cannot afford their rent.
The results, which use information from the National Housing Conference and Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Paycheck to Paycheck database, identified the ten most common occupations in the Las Vegas metro area, which totaled 24.7% of 918,670 workers in the region, and in the Reno-Sparks region, where the ten most common occupations totaled 23.9% of the 225,650 workers.
In Southern Nevada, “7 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to pay studio rent” while in Reno “6 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to pay the rent for a studio apartment,” according to the report.
“It’s not household income. He’s an individual,” said William Brown, director of Brookings Mountain West, in an interview. “If you have two incomes in a household, you have more resources, but you can also have children and other expenses.”
UNLV’s recent findings come amid a nationwide housing crisis that has seen rents soar, including an increase of more than 20% in Nevada over the past two years, and has prevented many people from finding affordable housing.
Affordable housing, as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, means people pay no more than 30% of their income in rent and utilities.
While state and local governments have pledged millions of dollars in federal funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act to build more affordable housing, creating new units will take time.
Brown said that with officials directing ARPA money to housing, he hopes the data in the report “will paint a realistic picture of where we are.”
“As there is federal money coming in now and people are looking at affordable housing and funding needs, we hope this information is helpful,” he said.
Based on 2022 data included in the report, individual renters in the Las Vegas area need to earn at least $33,920 a year to afford a studio apartment.
The most common occupation in the Las Vegas area is retail salesperson, a job held by 28,590 workers according to UNLV findings, and comes with a median annual salary of $25,570 per year.
Of the ten most common jobs in Southern Nevada, only three typically pay enough to rent a basic studio:
- registered nurses who earn a median salary of $91,870 per year;
- general and operational managers at $104,650 per year;
- office clerk at $36,510.
According to the report, office workers in Las Vegas, whose median annual wages equate to about $18 an hour, are charged for one-bedroom apartments.
The data indicates that people need to earn at least $40,200 a year to afford a one-bedroom unit and $83,420 for a four-bedroom unit.
The top occupation in the Reno-Sparks area, as categorized by the BLS, is “Labourers and Freight, Stock and Movers, Hand,” a job held by 10,410 people and with a median annual salary of $34,540.
But the annual income workers must earn in Reno to afford a studio is $37,040.
Of the ten most common professions in the Reno area, four pay enough to afford a studio:
- operations managers, where the median salary is $102,940;
- registered nurses at $79,280;
- semi-trailer truck drivers at $50,580;
- general office clerk at $39,520.
A step above a studio, a one-bedroom apartment in Reno requires annual incomes of at least $44,320, which tops office workers.
While truckers can afford a one-bedroom apartment, they don’t earn enough for a two-bedroom apartment, which requires at least $55,760 a year.
None of the ten most common occupations in either city earn enough to pay a down payment on a home, not even the highest paid ones – general operations managers and registered nurses.
In both cities, fast food and counter workers — held by 4,950 people in Reno and 21,920 in Las Vegas — earn the least of the top 10 occupations, an annual median of $20,840 in Reno and 21,810 $ in Las Vegas.
These earnings translate to less than $11 per hour.
Nevada’s current minimum wage is $9.75 for employers who offer health benefits — $8.75 for employers without — and works out to about $19,013.
Effective July 1, Nevada’s minimum wage will increase to $10.50 for jobs with health benefits and $9.50 for employees with benefits. Under state law, the minimum wage should reach $12 through 2024, but only $11 if an employer offers health insurance.