Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2015

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The economy:

Public sector takes biggest jobs hit

Las Vegas unemployment rate leaps to 13.8 percent in June, state says

Unemployment numbers released Friday showed joblessness shot up to 13.8 percent in the Las Vegas area in June, the highest mark this year, reflecting the loss of thousands of government jobs — schools, university and municipal — because of the state’s budget deficit.

State economists don’t expect unemployment to top all-time highs of 15.7 percent in Las Vegas in July 2010 and 14.9 percent statewide in December 2010.

There are a few bright spots in Nevada’s otherwise gloomy employment report: Restaurants and hotels, the health care industry and services for businesses — which can include landscaping, waste management and payroll services — have added jobs.

But the picture is a sober one for a tourism-dependent state that once boasted the nation’s strongest job growth.

The actual unemployment rate, including people who want to work but can’t find jobs, was 24 percent statewide from January through March. Second-quarter figures aren’t yet available.

Nevada’s labor force — working people plus unemployed seeking work — peaked in December 2008 at 1.4 million people. That figure is down 44,000 people so far this year compared with the same period last year.

“A lot of the decline in the unemployment rate this year has been due to people dropping out of the labor market,” Jared McDonald, an economist for the Nevada Employment Training and Rehabilitation Department, said Friday.

Nevada’s official unemployment figures only count people actively looking for work.

In Las Vegas, an estimated 130,300 people were jobless in June. That was 14,000 more than May when the rate was 12.4 percent.

“An analysis of the June labor market condition suggests the recent weakness evident at the national level may be trickling into the Silver State,” said Bill Anderson, chief economist with the Employment Department.

Nevada and the nation haven’t escaped a double-dip recession.

“If we got into a national recession, all bets are off,” McDonald said.

The Employment Department said the state’s rate rose from 12.1 percent in May to 12.4 percent in June with an estimated 162,900 jobless.

Total employment in Las Vegas dropped from 824,000 workers in May to 812,200 in June, much of that coming from the decrease in government workers.

Overall, Nevada’s job market is essentially flat, Anderson said.

Employment in the resort and gaming industries in Las Vegas rose in June as the summer tourist season opened. There were an estimated 161,300 employed in this segment of the economy, up 1,800 workers from May.

Anderson said some of the gains are seasonal “but some can be attributed to the uptick in tourism Las Vegas has experienced so far in 2011.”

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and other hospitality businesses in addition to casinos, added 7,800 jobs in June compared with a year ago. That helped offset the loss of government jobs, McDonald said.

However, the hard-hit construction industry is depressing job growth. Construction employment in Southern Nevada added 100 workers from May but is down 7,000 jobs from June 2010.

Government employment lost 6,800 workers from May and is down 4,600 jobs from a year ago.

A few other sectors saw growth in June besides hospitality. Education and health services — a category that includes technical private schools and other business training centers as well as hospitals, doctor’s offices and ambulance services — added 4,100 jobs in Las Vegas last month compared with June 2010.

Professional and business services in Las Vegas added 3,700 jobs in June compared with a year ago. That’s a positive indicator for business health in the region, McDonald said.

“When business increases in general, they’re going to start increasing in these services” by hiring temporary workers or other services needed to run their businesses, he said.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector shed 900 jobs from May in Las Vegas and is down 4,600 jobs from June 2010.

The jobless rate in the Reno-Sparks area increased from 11.8 percent in May to 13 percent in June. And Carson City’s rate rose from 11.5 percent in May to 12.5 percent in June.

Anderson said spring job growth statewide in the retail sector stalled in June as employers trimmed 800 jobs. And educational health and services statewide lost 800 jobs.

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