Nevada jobless rate steady, but job growth surges

Nevada added both jobs and job seekers in February.

The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.1 percent from January to February, as job formation surged and people entered the labor pool, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Friday.

Joblessness declined year over year, falling from 8.4 percent in February 2014. It was the 48th straight month of year-to-year drops in Nevada’s unemployment rate.

The Las Vegas Valley’s unemployment rate slipped to 7.2 percent, down from 7.5 percent in January and 8.5 percent a year earlier, though local job numbers are not seasonally adjusted and can swing more widely than state figures.

The statewide jobs count surged 36,900 positions year over year in February, to 1.24 million.

More than 13,000 of those added jobs were in leisure and hospitality, which grew 4.1 percent and led the way in number of new positions.

For growth rate, though, construction continued to best the state’s other nine “super” employment sectors, a top rank it has held for much of the last year. The building industry added 3,200 jobs year over year, for a 5.3 percent growth rate. Construction has built its statewide jobs base to 62,800, up from 46,700 positions in 2012 but less than half of its 2006 record of 148,000.

Other industries with strong growth included trade, transportation and utilities, a category that includes retail, with growth of 4.4 percent, or 9,800 jobs; education and health services, which expanded 4.5 percent, or 5,200 jobs; and professional and business services such as law firms, architecture studios and employment agencies, which gained 3.5 percent, or 5,400 positions.

Nevada employers have steadily added to payrolls since 2011, but job formation has surged since 2013. In the first three quarters of 2014, the state’s number of jobs jumped by 3.8 percent compared with the same period in 2013. Nevada ranked No. 3 for job creation in the period, surpassed only by North Dakota, at 4.6 percent, and Colorado, at 3.9 percent. Year over year in February, job growth was 3.1 percent, compared with 2.4 percent nationwide.

Nevada’s job growth has outpaced the nation’s for 31 straight months.

“The overall trend in the state’s recovery is positive,” said Bill Anderson, the employment department’s chief economist.

But the jobless rate didn’t budge, as new workers entered the state’s labor pool. Nevada’s work force ticked up 1 percent, growing by 14,300 people to a little more than 1.4 million. Some of that increase came from population growth — a reflection of economic expansion, Anderson said. The state’s population expanded in 2014 by 42,300 people, or 1.5 percent, to more than 2.84 million.

In all, 99,500 Nevadans were out of work and looking in February, a drop of nearly 17,000 compared with February 2014. Nearly 74,000 Las Vegans were unemployed and in the jobs market.

Monthly claims for unemployment insurance have stabilized, averaging 29,000 over the last year. That’s down more than 75 percent since the recession’s end. Some of the decline comes from the end of federal programs that extended jobless benefits. More than 16,000 Nevadans have lost unemployment benefits since the end of 2013.

Expiration of jobless benefits does not factor into unemployment rates. Rather, federal and state agencies compile the numbers through phone surveys of businesses and households, as well as first-time filings for jobless benefits.

Include discouraged workers who have quit seeking jobs and underemployed part-timers who would rather have full-time work, and Nevada’s unemployment rate averaged 15.3 percent in 2014. Nevada’s official unemployment rate continued to surpass the federal rate, which was 5.5 percent in February.

Nevada ranked No. 1 for unemployment in the month despite solid job growth.

Contact Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.