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Las Vegas area’s May jobless rate highest among major US metro areas

Updated July 1, 2020 - 1:08 pm

Southern Nevada’s unemployment rate was by far the highest among major metro areas again in May, even as locals started working again following the pandemic-sparked shutdowns, a new report shows.

The Las Vegas area’s jobless rate in May, 29 percent, dipped from April but was still highest among 51 metro areas with at least 1 million people, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

It was followed by Detroit, at 23.7 percent, and Orlando, Florida, at 22.6 percent.

The jobless rate in tourism-dependent Las Vegas far outpaced other big cities for the second consecutive month. Officials initially reported its April unemployment rate at 33.5 percent, later revising it upward to 34 percent.

As recently as February, Las Vegas’ jobless rate was just 3.9 percent.

Las Vegas was on strong economic footing at the start of 2020 after years of crawling back from the depths of the Great Recession. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, devastating the U.S. travel industry with sweeping business closures and stay-at-home orders, and wiping out much of Southern Nevada’s economy virtually overnight.

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos and other Nevada businesses closed in March to help contain the virus’ spread. Job losses skyrocketed, and Las Vegas’ famed casino corridor, the Strip, effectively shut down.

The governor allowed certain businesses, including retailers, auto showrooms and nail salons, to let customers back in their stores in May, albeit at limited capacity. Las Vegas has almost certainly recouped more jobs since then, given that casinos were allowed to reopen June 4 after more than two months on state-ordered lockdown.

Cities across the country were hit with huge job losses amid the outbreak. But Las Vegas has been pummeled hardest, as its economy is fueled by tourists and conventioneers flying here, from around the country and world, to gather in close quarters — all of which largely stopped over fears of the virus.

“We’re the world’s leading center of face-to-face exchanges when you’re not allowed to do anything face to face,” UNLV public policy professor Robert Lang said earlier this week.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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