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Las Vegas’ jobless rate highest among major US cities in April

Updated June 3, 2020 - 5:36 pm

Las Vegas’ jobless rate was by far the highest among major American cities in April, a new report shows, underscoring the coronavirus pandemic’s financial carnage in Southern Nevada.

Job losses have soared across the country amid the turmoil, but the April unemployment rate in tourism-dependent Las Vegas, 33.5 percent, was highest among 51 metro areas with at least 1 million people, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. Las Vegas was followed by Detroit at 24.4 percent.

Nationally, unemployment rates climbed year-over-year in April in all 389 metro areas, the bureau said. Among them, Southern Nevada’s was third highest, behind only Kokomo, Indiana, at 34.1 percent, and Kahului, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, at 35 percent.

Margaret Simone, 58, said she lost her dispatch job at a limousine company in Las Vegas in April and has not received a dollar yet from Nevada’s heavily backlogged unemployment system.

She has applied for new jobs, she said, but no one has called.

“I think we are ‘ground zero’ for the COVID-19 recession,” Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said in an email, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

RCG Economics founder John Restrepo noted the Strip, which effectively closed over fears of the virus, accounts for “a huge portion of our economy,” and he expects Las Vegas to recover more slowly from the pandemic than cities with a more diversified employer base.

Restrepo’s consulting firm is projecting that Las Vegas will return to steady job growth, progressing toward full employment, in 18 months under a best-case scenario.

The most-likely scenario is 24 months, he added, and at worst it would take 36 months.

Southern Nevada’s economy was on strong footing before the pandemic sparked sweeping business shutdowns and other closures in March and devastated the U.S. travel industry. Locally, tourism all but vanished in April and gambling revenue basically evaporated.

Las Vegas’ economy has been reopening in recent weeks, albeit with limitations. Casinos can open their doors again Thursday, more than two months after Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered them closed statewide to help contain the virus’ spread.

Ezequiel Castellanos, a 24-year-old lifelong Las Vegas resident and recent nursing school graduate, said he lost his accounting job in March as the valley rapidly shut down.

His wife worked at the same company and was also laid off. Neither is back at work.

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

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