Clinton Tell hurries through Planet Hollywood Resort with résumé in hand, hoping this day will be different from the others. Tell is an unemployed warehouseman in his late 30s. He is attending a job fair for a chance to be one of 800 hired by the Strip resort for the November opening of its 1,201-room PH Towers.
Tell was laid off in October. Like so many other Las Vegans, he's at the point where he is willing to switch careers just to work, but hasn't had much luck.
"In the last 30 days, I've put in 23 applications," Tell said. "It's so bad that even telemarketers are asking for experience."
Local projections for the job market mostly paint what analysts concede is a bleak picture. Few local industries are expected to increase hiring over the next two years. Most sectors, including construction, hospitality and leisure, are likely to continue to shrink in both the percentage of jobs available and in wages paid.
"We aren't seeing any improvement. We don't expect unemployment to go down. But as far as a spike (upward), who knows?" Jered McDonald, an economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said of the immediate job picture.
The state's unemployment rate rested at a record 12.5 percent as of Friday; the rate for Las Vegas was 13.1 percent, based on July data. The state rate jumped half of a percentage point from June, while the local rate was up eight-tenths of a percentage point from the month before.
Unemployment in North Las Vegas reached 14.8 percent, Applied Analysis principal Jeremy Aguero said.
Just before the release of the latest unemployment data on Aug. 21, McDonald said he was not expecting much improvement over the next two years.
"Don't expect this to get better," he said. "Even if the (July) rate is equal or slightly less than the June rate, it won't change the fundamentals of the market."
Although McDonald said that his outlook is uncertain at best, he said some past DETR projections have turned out to be overly optimistic.
The department is not projecting a return to job growth before 2012. DETR's projections only go out as far as the end of 2011. Statewide estimates now project a 1.3 decline in jobs for that year. Unemployment is expected to rise in Nevada through the middle of next year.
"It will top out at 13 or 14 percent, and stay there for a while," McDonald said.
SOME HELP WANTED
The rising local unemployment rate does have an upside for some firms. The jobs dearth has allowed those companies that are still hiring to get pickier about employees. Planet Hollywood Resort, MGM Mirage's CityCenter, the Hard Rock Cafe, Wells Fargo & Co. and Kohl's Corp. were among those holding very public job fairs recently. Large turnouts provided many options for potential employers.
Hundreds of people devoted part of their Saturday to attend an August Wells Fargo job fair, which was held to fill 150 teller and personal banker positions statewide. The majority of those openings were in Las Vegas. Wells Fargo Nevada Regional President Kirk Clausen said the bank has been bombarded with applications, even without holding such events.
"I can't tell you how many thousands of résumés are sitting at our human resources department," he said. "Some of the (problem) is, 'Are they qualified?'"
Planet Hollywood Resort expected at least 1,000 people to show up at its late-July job fair. Thousands more applied online. The longest recession since World War II, combined with the city and state's highest unemployment rates ever, provided company President Bill Feather with a better variety of applicants than he would have during boom times.
"We know we might get over 10,000 applications ... It is a great time to be hiring," he said.
Looking around at the people filling tables at the resort's job fair, Feather was pleased.
"The attitude is better, and we see people wanting to get into gaming that we haven't seen before," he said. "We are happy about that."
The hospitality sector's biggest boost will come from the mid-December opening of MGM Mirage's $8.5 billion CityCenter, which is expected to create more than 12,000 jobs. Hard Rock Cafe held its own job fair in late July to hire another 500 people for its opening next month.
As hours continued to be cut, part-time jobs are also in demand. Kohl's, for instance, took over three valley Mervyn's locations for which it will need to hire a slate of new employees. Hundreds of people turned out for four days of job fairs earlier this month.
"All of our scheduled (interview) slots were full and we added a couple hundred slots to our 900 scheduled slots," Kohl's District Manager Rebecca Montijo said.
The recession has made job applicants take a second, serious look at retail positions, she said.
"It's competitive pay and a great range of benefits for what is offered in the market," Montijo said. "People are realizing that the marketplace is different now."
WHERE THE JOBS ARE
PH Towers' opening in November and MGM Mirage's debut of its CityCenter a month later would appear at first glace to be beacons of hope for the local job market. But, the ensuing spike in hospitality hiring will be diminished by the abrupt end to the thousands of construction jobs related to the projects. McDonald notes that those jobs are unlikely to be replaced anytime soon. CityCenter alone was responsible for some 8,500 construction jobs.
The construction industry is on a path of continued decline, DETR predicts. Employment in the sector is already down 23.6 percent in Nevada from a year ago in June. That marks three years of declines from its peak of 148,800 in 2006.
"We have lost 56,200 (construction) jobs in the last three years," McDonald said.
That sector is expected to decline further in the next few years. By the fourth quarter of 2011, DETR forecasts the number of construction jobs in the state to drop to 73,384.
Even an increase in home sales would be offset by losses in commercial construction jobs, McDonald said.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas economist Keith Schwer doesn't offer much hope for the construction industry in Las Vegas to improve, either.
"We have too many houses, too many shopping centers, more than enough hotel rooms and an ample amount of rental spaces," he said.
Statewide employment in leisure and hospitality has slid 7.1 percent statewide since last June, DETR reports. McDonald doesn't expect a quick fix, even with the thousands of jobs created by CityCenter.
"The outlook isn't too good. We've seen a change in the spending habits of Americans," he said. "They don't have the disposable income they had before, and when they do, they are saving it."
National predictions for tourism are more optimistic. John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said the Silver State has something unique.
"With tourism and gaming, Nevada has a driving force," he said in predicting a bump in employment in that sector.
Expectations for job growth in the local health care were far more encouraging. Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts medical-related jobs will be one of the fastest-growing sectors nationally. Las Vegas is in good position to benefit from the boom, partly because of its large influx of retirees.
"The future of Las Vegas, if it taps into one big area, is health care," Challenger said.
Health care is also one of the precious few bright spots for local job creation, DETR forecasts. Despite the recession, health care employment in Nevada has grown by 2 percent over the last year. The industry segment is projected to grow 2.2 percent this year and in 2010, and 2.5 percent in 2011. McDonald called that growth pace "significant."
DETR is trying to formulate data on job creation in renewable energy. The department is trying to calculate the effect of President Barack Obama's green jobs initiatives and economic stimulus programs, McDonald said.
WHEN WILL NEVADA RECOVER?
Opinions are mixed on when Las Vegas will rebound. All observers seem to agree that Nevada will lag the national recovery. But some industry segments may take years after that to rebound, McDonald said.
"I've heard forecasts of 2016 for a (recovery) in construction," he said.
Las Vegas-based business advisory firm Applied Analysis uses a "conservative" and "base" or "mild" models when forecasting the unemployment outlook and other economic data, Aguero said.
"We have a very mild model that expects modest job growth in 2010," he said. "The conservative model expects negative job growth in 2010 and in the first two quarters of 2011. We think the mild model is more likely."
Schwer sees the national recession ending in the fourth quarter of 2009, but expects the Southern Nevada economy to take much longer to recover. However, he said it could've been worse.
"We won't have another Great Depression," he said. "I can predict that."
Contact reporter Valerie Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5286.