Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2017

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Reid focuses on Nevada unemployment (but gets a little confused)

With the political and financial worlds buzzing about depressing national employment data released Friday by the Department of Labor, Sen. Harry Reid took the opportunity to highlight Nevada's rise in unemployment - and what Reid sees as obstruction from the Bush administration in solving economic woes.

“The unemployment numbers released today by the Labor Department shows that the number of unemployed Nevadans increased by more than 20 percent in the last year," said Reid in a statement. "This is another reminder that the Bush administration's ‘wait and see’ approach isn’t working in Nevada or anywhere else."

Actually, the Department of Labor data released Friday doesn't show that.

The department released only national data Friday, which stated that the country lost 63,000 jobs in February. That was the biggest slump in five years. The number of people looking for a job also declined, which meant the unemployment rate actually went down slightly - to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent in January.

February employment numbers for the state of Nevada won't be available for a few weeks and therefore weren't broken out in the data released Friday. The state will release January employment figures on Monday, according to state economist Jim Shabi.

Reid's office confirmed Friday that, contrary to Reid's statement, they instead relied on December data to reach the conclusion that Nevada unemployment shot up 20 percent between January 2007 and December 2007. Unemployment rose from 58,556 to 70,704 or 4.5 to 5.2 percent.

On the other hand...even as construction workers and others affiliated with the slumping housing market lost their jobs, the state continued its streak of employment growth. It ended the year with 34,495 more jobs than it started with.

But Reid's statement might be prescient: When the January and February Nevada employment figures do come out, economists are bracing themselves for more bad news.

"The first wave was in housing construction, but now we're seeing all these sectors that are tied to housing laying off workers," said Keith Schwer, director of Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV.

One example? The City of Las Vegas announced Thursday that it is laying off 30 employees involved in building permitting and inspection because building permit revenue declined 36 percent in the last year.

From there, said Schwer, expect general economic weakness to reach into other types of workplaces, such as auto dealerships and other high-end retail shops.

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