Nevada’s unemployment rate down slightly; Las Vegas’ numbers up

State and local unemployment continued to bounce around unevenly in December.

Nevada’s jobless rate dipped to 8.8 percent, down from 9 percent in November, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Monday morning. But the Las Vegas Valley’s rate ticked up to 8.9 percent, compared with 8.6 percent a month earlier.

The employment department seasonally adjusts the state unemployment rate but not the local one, so the city’s jobless numbers can swing more widely and in different directions than state figures.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the employment department, said holiday hiring was “relatively strong.” Nevada’s employers added 14,100 jobs from September to December, with hiring categories such as retail posting the strongest gains.

Compare 2013 to 2012, and the change in unemployment looks more dramatic. Unemployment averaged 9.4 percent in 2013, down from 11.1 percent in 2012.

That’s partly because the rate at which the state’s employers cut jobs has finally fallen to pre-recession lows. Still, unemployment remains stubbornly high because overall job formation remains low.

“Although job trends have turned positive, hiring activity needs to pick up to see more noticeable net gains,” Anderson said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement that Nevada’s jobless rate fell in each of 2013’s final four months to its lowest reading since late 2008.

Preliminary numbers show Nevada’s private sector created 18,900 jobs in 2013, though that number could be revised higher when final statistics come out in March.

“While this is good news for our state, our unemployment rate is still too high,” Sandoval said. “As 2014 begins, all indications suggest additional improvement with trends pointing to further job growth and a continued decrease in the unemployment rate.”

Nevada’s rate is still considerably higher than the national average, which was 6.7 percent in December. Nevada has led the nation in joblessness in every month but one since May 2010.

In all, 119,100 Nevadans, including 87,400 locals, were out of work and looking in December. That was down from 134,500 statewide and 98,400 locally a year earlier.

The employment department tabulates jobless numbers by counting first-time jobless claims and combining them with the results of phone surveys of households and businesses.

Include discouraged workers who have quit seeking a job and underemployed part-timers who would rather work full-time, and Nevada’s jobless rate averaged 18.1 percent in the third quarter.