Nevada near top of U.S. in both job growth and unemployment

Nevada’s jobs market is outpacing most of the nation in more ways than one.

It was near the top in March for both job growth and unemployment — a dichotomy born of its status in early recovery.

The Silver State’s jobs base grew 3.8 percent in March, good for No. 2 in the nation after North Dakota, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Friday. In fact, Bill Anderson, chief economist of the employment department, said the state’s jobs base has expanded faster than the nation’s for the last 20 months.

But those gains didn’t push down joblessness, which stayed at 8.5 percent from February to March, the employment department said. That level ranked No. 2 in the nation, after Rhode Island’s 8.7 percent. Nevada has landed among the top three states for joblessness since May 2010. Unemployment was nearly 2 percentage points above the national March reading of 6.7 percent.

The employment department won’t have local rates until later next week. But statewide, 116,600 people were out of work and looking in March, down from 142,700 people a year earlier, when unemployment was 10.2 percent.

Count discouraged workers who have quit seeking jobs and underemployed part-timers who would rather work full time, and the state joblessness averaged 18.1 percent in 2013. That’s the highest rate in the nation, and well above a U.S. average of 13.8 percent.

That broader unemployment rate also comes despite a drop in discouraged workers. Nevada’s pool of available workers has jumped by more than 16,000 since December, as improving economic news lures more people back onto the job market. The state’s year-to-year work force gain of 2,700 in March was the first annual jump since April 2011.

That’s a trend that could affect the jobless rate. People who aren’t looking for work don’t count in unemployment figures, so when job hunters return to the market and are tallied again, the rate can stay steady or even increase.

But strong job growth prevented statewide unemployment from ticking up as people re-entered the market. The private sector added 5,100 jobs in March, while the public sector cut 400 jobs, for a seasonally adjusted gain of 4,700 positions.

Leisure and hospitality led the way, with 1,700 new jobs — an increase of 0.5 percent from February. All but 200 of the new positions came from accommodations and food services. Employers in professional and business services, including accounting and law firms, architecture studios and employment agencies, added 1,100 jobs from February to March. At 160,300 jobs, the professional and business services category is nearing its February 2007 record of 161,800 positions.

Construction jobs fell by 700 month to month, though on a year-over-year basis the industry posted the largest growth rate of any large employment sector in Nevada, at 11.8 percent.

The employment department’s report also noted that first-time claims for unemployment benefits have fallen to historic levels. Over time, Nevada has averaged about 3.2 initial claims for every 1,000 jobs. That rate hit a low of 2.1 claims in 2006, and soared to 4.9 claims in the recession. Today, the average is about three claims per 1,000, down from 3.4 claims in 2013.

“Nevada continues to show indication that its economy is moving in the right direction,” Anderson said.

The employment department’s report said as well that average state personal income growth slowed to 3 percent in 2013, down from 3.7 percent in 2012, though every state posted falling increases in the year.

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