County ranks high in employment drop

Yet another nationwide indicator reveals especially hard times for the local economy.

Clark County ranked No. 3 among the nation’s 334 large counties for its percentage of decline in employment from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009, according to fresh data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment in Clark County plunged 10.6 percent to 808,700 people in the year, the bureau reported Tuesday. That decline was double the 5.3 percent slide in employment that the nation experienced in the same period.

The only counties with steeper drops in employment were Elkhart County, Ind., where employment fell by 14.5 percent; and Trumbull County, Ohio, where employment declined by 11 percent.

Statewide, the falloff was 10.1 percent, for a third-quarter employment base of 1.13 million. In Washoe County, home to Reno, the dip was 9.6 percent.

The numbers mirror other figures that show a sustained, worse-than-average economic slump in the Silver State. Just last week, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported that joblessness had soared to record levels of 13.7 percent in Nevada and 14.2 percent in Las Vegas, even as two-thirds of states had seen unemployment drop. The national jobless rate is 9.9 percent.

Brian Gordon, a principal in local research and consulting firm Applied Analysis, said the bureau’s latest numbers are no surprise when you consider that Nevada owns the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate behind Michigan’s 14 percent.

"We didn’t get to that ranking overnight, and it’s a sharp contrast to where we were just a few years ago, when the operating environment was very different," Gordon said.

Wages also dipped in Clark County, falling 1 percent through the third quarter to $804 a week. That’s below the nation’s $840 weekly average, which was down 0.1 percent, but the wage still ranks in the top half of the country’s 334 biggest counties. Clark County’s typical weekly wage placed No. 143 nationally.

Economists blame Nevada’s especially tough times on the state’s reliance on tourism and construction. Before the recession, the two sectors ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in their share of the state’s jobs base. The recession centered partly on plummeting housing values, though, and the downturn curbed discretionary spending on leisure activities such as travel.

Gordon said indicators have eased up on their declines slightly since the third quarter, when the bureau’s reporting period ended. The rate of job loss in Nevada has slowed since September as employers already have made their deepest staffing cuts.

But wages remain on the decline, as the average number of hours worked continues to drop, though the falloffs are less pronounced than they were in 2009, Gordon noted.

Nevada and Las Vegas are unlikely to see any noticeable job gains until hours worked and wages earned head upward for a period of time, he added.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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