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Las Vegas’ unemployment rate 29 percent in May

Updated June 23, 2020 - 3:03 pm

Las Vegas’ unemployment rate dipped last month as locals went back to work following the pandemic-sparked shutdowns.

But the valley’s jobless rate was still through the roof.

An estimated 29 percent of the Las Vegas area’s workforce was unemployed in May, down from 34 percent in April, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Tuesday.

Las Vegas gained a seasonally adjusted 20,900 jobs in that time, said the department, which revised upward the region’s previously reported unemployment rate in April, 33.5 percent.

The coronavirus pandemic, which devastated the U.S. travel industry with sweeping business closures and stay-at-home orders across the nation, wiped out much of Las Vegas’ tourism-dependent economy virtually overnight in March, effectively closing its famed casino corridor.

“For a city that never closes its doors, it was eerie to drive a dark Las Vegas Strip,” Maurice “Maury” Gallagher, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant Travel Co., said in a letter to shareholders Tuesday.

Gov. Steve Sisolak allowed certain businesses, including retailers, auto showrooms and nail salons, to let customers back in last month, albeit at limited capacity. Nevada’s unemployment rate in May, 25.3 percent, was down from 30.1 percent in April, but it was still the highest in the country, seasonally adjusted federal data shows.

Las Vegas has almost certainly recouped more lobs lately, given that casinos were allowed to reopen June 4 after more than two months on state-ordered lockdown.

Still, forecasting a recovery from the chaos is “sort of a fiasco,” said Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

Unemployment-system phone lines have been clogged amid a “tsunami of claims coming in,” and some businesses have closed again after workers were infected with the coronavirus, he noted.

Miller figures Las Vegas and the rest of the country could be grappling with the fallout from the virus through 2021.

John Beckmann, a 58-year-old Las Vegas casino host, was working at Texas Station when Sisolak ordered casinos and other businesses closed in March to help contain the virus’ spread.

As instructed by management, Beckmann said, he still came in twice a week to call his gamblers and see how they were doing, until he learned May 1 his position had been eliminated.

He was paid through May 15 and received $2,500 in severance, and his health insurance is covered through September. He applied for state unemployment benefits a few days after his paychecks ended, but he hasn’t received a dime yet, he said.

His wife is still working, though he hasn’t been hunting for jobs because “there’s nothing out there,” Beckmann said, adding he supposes he could work in fast food.

“I don’t think at age 58 I have a career at McDonald’s,” he said.

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

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