Nevada’s jobless rate continues downward trend in February

Another month of high job growth pushed jobless rates down in Las Vegas and across the state in February.

Nevada’s jobs base expanded 3.6 percent year over year in the month, according to a Friday report from the state Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Department. That was second only to 4.1 percent in North Dakota, where an oil and gas boom has spurred several years of economic expansion.

“This month’s report suggests that Nevada continues to show progress in recovery from the recession,” said Bill Anderson, the employment department’s chief economist. “Employers are continuing to add jobs and consumer confidence continues to show improvement. All and all, the state is moving in a positive direction.”

The Las Vegas Valley’s jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in February, down from 8.9 percent in January and 10.8 percent in February 2013.

Statewide unemployment dropped from 8.7 percent in January to 8.5 percent in February. Nevada’s jobless rate in February 2013 was 10.5 percent. State rates are seasonally adjusted, and are not directly comparable to unadjusted local rates.

Nevada’s 1.8 percentage-point dip in joblessness was the nation’s fourth-highest decline, Anderson said.

Nevada also fell to No. 3 in joblessness, behind Rhode Island (9 percent) and Illinois (8.7 percent). It’s the first time since May 2010 that Nevada hasn’t been in the top two for unemployment.

In another notable reversal, Las Vegas posted the lowest unemployment rate among the state’s three biggest metro areas. During the recession, the valley’s jobless level routinely topped rates in the other two major cities, Reno and Carson City.

Las Vegas improved its jobless rate more markedly in February because construction and tourism — two sectors that took a dive in the downturn — are recovering, Anderson said. Residential building has picked up, and Strip resort operators are adding hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and entertainment space. Stalled projects such as The Shops at Summerlin are also back underway.

Record visitation levels have boosted hiring in leisure and hospitality, Anderson added.

As one of the hardest-hit economies in the recession, the state has more room to rebound, Anderson said.

Nevada lost 175,000 jobs during the downturn. It regained 60,000 jobs from 2010 to 2013, and is on track to bring back another 40,000 in 2014, Anderson said. That would still leave Nevada with 75,000 jobs lost.

Aside from construction, industries that added jobs in February included financial activities; professional and business services, such as accounting and law firms; and trade, transportation and utilities, a sector that includes retail. Employers in mining and education and health services cut jobs, while positions in manufacturing and government were flat.

In all, nearly 116,600 Nevadans were out of work and looking for a job in February, down from 142,700 a year earlier, and well below a recessionary peak of almost 200,000 people.

Nevada’s unemployment rate remained well above the national rate of 6.7 percent.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.