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NV’s most common jobs rarely pay enough to pay the rent, UNLV research shows


by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
June 10, 2022

Retail workers, the most common job in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, don’t earn enough to afford a studio apartment, let alone buy a house, according to recent data from UNLV researchers.

They aren’t the only workers in Nevada priced out and struggling with housing affordability.

A fact sheet published this week by Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute at UNLV shows the overwhelming majority of people employed in the top occupations in the state can’t afford their rent.

The findings, which uses information from the National Housing Conference’s Paycheck to Paycheck database and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, identified the ten most common professions in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which totalled 24.7% of the area’s 918,670 workers, and in the Reno-Sparks area, where the ten most common occupations totaled 23.9% of 225,650 workers.  

In Southern Nevada, “7 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to afford rent for a studio apartment” while in Reno “6 of the 10 most common occupations do not earn the income needed to afford rent for a studio apartment,” according to the report. 

“That’s not household income. It’s an individual,” said William Brown, the director of Brookings Mountain West, in an interview. “If you have two incomes in a household, you have more resources, but you may also have children and other expenses.”

UNLV’s recent findings come amid a nationwide housing crisis that has seen skyrocketing rents, including more than 20% increase in Nevada in the last two years, and prevented many from finding affordable places to live.

Affordable housing, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, means people aren’t paying more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. 

While state and local governments have pledged millions of dollars of federal funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act toward building more affordable housing, creating new units will take time. 

Brown said with officials directing ARPA money toward 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 will be 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 a retail salesperson, a job held by 28,590 workers according to UNLV’s findings, and comes with median annual wages of $25,570 a year. 

Of the ten most common jobs in Southern Nevada, only three typically pay enough to rent a basic studio apartment:

  • registered nurses who earn a median  salary of $91,870 a year; 
  • general and operations managers at $104,650 a year;
  • office clerks at $36,510.

Office clerks in Las Vegas, whose median annual salary equates to about $18 an hour, are priced out of one-bedroom apartments, according to the report. 

The data notes that people need to make at least $40,200 a year to afford a one-bedroom and $83,420 for a four-bedroom place. 

The top occupation in the Reno-Sparks area, as categorized by the BLS, is “Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand,” a job held by 10,410 people and that comes with a median annual salary of $34,540.

But the yearly income workers need to earn in Reno to afford a studio is $37,040.

Of the ten most common occupations in the Reno area, four pay enough to afford a studio apartment:

  • operations managers, where the median salary is $102,940; 
  • registered nurses at $79,280;
  • tractor trailer truck drivers at $50,580;
  • general office clerks at $39,520.

One step up from a studio apartment, a one-bedroom apartment in Reno requires annual earnings of at least $44,320, which prices out those employed as office clerks. 

While truck drivers can afford a one-bedroom apartment, they don’t earn enough for a two-bedroom, which requires at least $55,760 a year. 

None of the ten most common occupations in either city earn enough to afford a down payment on a home, not even the highest paid – 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 making an annual median of $20,840 in Reno and $21,810 in Las Vegas.

Those earnings translate to less than $11 an hour. 

Nevada’s current minimum wage is $9.75 for employers that offer health benefits  – $8.75 for employers without – and equates to around $19,013. 

Beginning 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 is scheduled to top out at  $12 until 2024, but only $11 if an employer offers health insurance.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

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