weather icon Clear
Nevada paying unemployment claims faster than many states, data shows
Despite thousands still waiting, an analysis shows Nevada performed better than expected, and improved speed in March and April

By Subrina Hudson and Arthur Kane Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada paying unemployment claims faster than many states, data shows

Updated June 25, 2020 - 4:34 pm

Federal data reveals Nevada is performing better than most states in paying unemployment claims, even as residents like Mark Healy have lost patience dealing with the state’s busy phone lines, unresolved claims and ongoing payment delays.

A Review-Journal analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data shows the state’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation not only paid people faster than many states, but it improved its speed in March and April — even as the state reported the highest unemployment rate nationally amid record numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevada saw a six-fold increase in claims in March, vastly surpassing the previous record number of claims seen during the Great Recession.

But Las Vegan Healy said Nevada’s comparative performance doesn’t mean anything to him.

“I’m going on 14 weeks without a paycheck,” he said.

DETR has not disclosed how many Nevadans like Healy are still waiting to see any money from the state. But based on the number of claims with pending issues, which the agency does report, there were at least 23,777 people who have not received money as of June 6.

How Nevada compares

Nevada’s economy virtually shut down overnight on March 15, when Gov. Steve Sisolak mandated the closure of casinos, restaurants, bars and other nonessential businesses.

Nearly two months later, Sisolak began reopening businesses, but with many companies operating at reduced capacity to follow social distancing measures, and customer demand too low to warrant bringing back workers, thousands of Nevadans are still unemployed.

Using data from the DOL, it’s impossible to discern how many people who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in March received a payment in March, because payment numbers for that month also include people who may have first filed weeks or months before.

However, the Review-Journal analyzed the percentage of the state population who received their first unemployment paycheck in March within seven days. Data shows 87.7 percent of jobless Nevadans received their benefits within one week of filing in March, ranking it 17th when compared to other states.

“While there is still enormous amounts of work to be done, it is important to acknowledge the department’s efforts and successes as it relates to the most unprecedented unemployment situation the state and the country have ever experienced,” DETR spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said in a statement.

Any positive finding right now with Nevada — you take what you can get. I don’t have to tell you Nevada was one of the hardest hit states.

Adam Kamins, Senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics

Thousands of independent contractors and those who are self employed are also experiencing paym ...
Thousands of independent contractors and those who are self employed are also experiencing payment delays with DETR’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filing system, which rolled out in Nevada with technical glitches and weeks after the federal program was announced. Some PUA filers protest their plight on Friday, June 12, 2020 in front of the Grant Sawyer State Office Building along E. Washington Ave. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Left_Eye_Images

Roughly 7 percent of the state’s population requested help that month, ranking Nevada second in the country in the percentage of its population filing new claims.

“Any positive finding right now with Nevada — you take what you can get. I don’t have to tell you Nevada was one of the hardest-hit states,” said Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics. “By the objective measures that we have, Nevada does seem to be doing a lot better than many of its counterparts.”

In April, the state paid 63.6 percent of people within seven days, ranking 18th nationally.

Before the pandemic upended daily life, data shows Nevada ranked 38th in January and 36th in February, paying only about 54 percent and almost 51 percent of the population, respectively, after the federally mandated one-week waiting period. Sisolak waived that waiting period in March for an indefinite amount of time.

How we did the unemployment claim analysis

The Review-Journal set out to determine if Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) system was managing claims properly under the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic shutdown. To determine that, we undertook an analysis of data.

The U.S. Department of Labor releases monthly data collected from all 50 states, District of Columbia, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, showing how many initial claims the state received, how many people received their first check and how long it took for people to get their checks. The data goes back to 1971.

Using those databases and merging them with Census population figures, the Review-Journal was able to determine what percentage of people received their first checks each month, the months with the highest claims and how many people were paid quickly.

The data did not include the number of unemployed people in each state, so percentages were derived from comparing claims paid, initial claims and state population drawn from Census data estimates.

The data did contain some faulty numbers submitted by states and DOL officials said they were trying to clarify some submissions. The data often is incomplete for weeks as the labor department waits for states to report – with some states failing to report until several weeks after the majority have already provided data.

This analysis did not include the thousands of independent contractors and the self-employed who were able to file for unemployment benefits with DETR under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filing system, which rolled out with technical glitches weeks after the federal program was announced.

Click to read more
Click to read less

Skyrocketing claims

The Century Foundation Senior Fellow Andrew Stettner said it’s surprising Nevada improved its ranking considering the flood of claims brought by the pandemic’s economic impact.

He said the improvement probably can be attributed to the state doing away with the one-week waiting period.

“They basically get another week (to see money) faster, but it’s still surprising,” he said. “It’s showing for the people getting paid, once they’re determined eligible, they’re getting payments quickly.”

Meghin Delaney, a communications director for Sisolak’s office, said, “Nevada has done an incredible job during unprecedented circumstances to connect eligible Nevadans to their benefits,” and added that Sisolak “understands the frustrations of Nevadans who feel the system is too slow and outdated, and recognizes there is still more work to be done.”

Southern Nevada’s economy was initially on strong footing, beginning the year with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent in December, tying with the state’s record-low unemployment rate set in February 1999, according to DETR.

But the coronavirus pandemic sparked sweeping business shutdowns and other closures in March, spurring thousands of layoffs and furloughs.

Nevada reported more than 208,000 new applications for unemployment benefits that month, making it the largest number of claims in the state since the labor department started collecting claims data in 1971.

April’s 207,147 new claims also marked a record for Nevada.

The third-highest month for claims was December 2008, during the Great Recession, but there were only 36,414 that month — a sixth of what DETR saw in March. Meanwhile, the state’s population increased about 14 percent since that time period.

More than 528,000 new claims have been filed through the week ending June 13, and 506,893 of those claims were submitted in the past 14 weeks, according to DETR.

Last month, DETR Director Heather Korbulic told the Review-Journal the unemployment division was receiving 10,000 claims a month prior to the coronavirus pandemic but is now averaging 10,000 a day.

‘Mentally broken’

The department has had its share of issues dealing with the skyrocketing numbers of claims, and there have been several changes in leadership since March. Korbulic replaced Tiffany Tyler-Garner in May, and Korbulic announced her resignation last week “due to threats to her personal safety.” A written statement did not specify what kind of threats Korbulic received, but frustrated claimants have circulated her home address online.

She will return to her former post heading the Silver State Healthcare Exchange. A new interim director has yet to be named.

The DOL data does not track some of the main complaints that recipients have had with DETR such as long call wait times, payments for independent contracts and self-employed workers, problems with the state websites, and failures to promptly pay the $600 in extra unemployment that the federal government authorized. It also does not track the failure to pay or the numbers actively receiving benefits in a way that allows an analysis of what percentage of active recipients are paid in what time frame.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Gary Burtless said roughly 31 million people in the United States were collecting some form of unemployment benefits by May.

“We’ve never remotely approached a number like that in our whole history,” he said. “You can say there were a lot of mistakes. We didn’t do a great job. But you got to be a little bit forgiving … bearing in mind all these state agencies have faced exactly the same problem that the rest of us have: Their workers are fearful (asking), ‘Am I going to get sick?’ ”

Healy applied for benefits March 27 after being laid off from his job as a cook at The Strat.

He’s called DETR hundreds of times each day and says he’s “pretty lucky” compared with other filers, since he was able to speak with a DETR representative.

But he said he’s been told conflicting information as to why he could not claim his wages from The Strat, where he started working in December.

The only income he’s received in nearly four months was the $1,200 federal stimulus check.

“I’m pinned up against the wall,” Healy said. “I can’t pay my bills. My dog needs his medication, and I can’t get them. I never thought I could ever be mentally broken down like this.”

Still waiting

The data reflects a state outperforming other states in processing jobless claims during a time of economic contraction, but there are still thousands who have yet to receive their benefits, like Healy and former Las Vegas resident Damon Taylor.

Taylor worked for a transportation company in Henderson but was laid off in March.

He filed for unemployment March 20 but has not received a check or spoken with a DETR representative to have his interstate claim adjudicated, adding that he spent half of 2019 working in Nebraska.

Taylor has sent emails, faxes and calls the unemployment office every day only to hear a recording saying the office has exceeded its call volume and to try again the next day.

He exhausted his savings and moved to Phoenix in April for a temporary job, adding that he could no longer afford to live in Las Vegas without an income.

“You can claim you’re doing better than anybody else, but for people like me that haven’t been able to speak to anybody or even have somebody look at (my claim), I don’t think they’re doing that great,” Taylor said.

The Review-Journal is continuing to examine DETR’s response to the unemployment crisis. If you’d like to share your experience applying for unemployment benefits, email us at DETR@reviewjournal.com.

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter. Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
'Evangelicals for Trump' event draws hundreds to Las Vegas hotel - VIDEO
Hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters packed the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas for a faith-based campaign event. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak names new DETR director, head of unemployment task force - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak named Elisa Cafferata acting director of Nevada’s Department of Training, Employment and Rehabilitation and announced Barbara Buckley as the leader of a rapid response team on unemployment insurance at a press briefing Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak unveils long-term COVID-19 plan with Nevada Health Response team - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday a long-term strategy for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada through a targeted approach. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak: Bars in four counties to stay closed - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in four counties, including Clark County, will remain closed to help fight COVID-19. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 case reported at Legislature's special session - Video
A person who was inside the Nevada Legislature Building has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes said Friday, July 10. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump Pushing for Reopening Schools and In-Person Learning - Video
Donald Trump launched an effort on Wednesday to reopen schools across the United States with in-person learning.
Special session to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lawmakers to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Democratic leaders resign
Several key Clark County Democratic Party leaders have resigned as progressive leadership has swelled in recent months.
Dream Big Nevada celebrates DACA ruling - VIDEO
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections under DACA for 650,000 young immigrants. Astrid Silva, founder of Dream Big Nevada, discusses the temporary victory and the next step for Dreamers.
Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of city council meeting - Video
Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of a City Council meeting during public comments.
Mitt Romney marches in Washington, D.C., protest - Video
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah joined a group of protesters marching through Washington, D.C. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada gyms, bars that do not serve food can reopen Friday - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday evening said Phase 2 of the state’s Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery will begin on Friday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Rep. Horsford admits to having affair - VIDEO
Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford admitted to having an affair with Gabriela Linder, a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. Linder detailed her account of the affair in a podcast she called, "Mistress for Congress." (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Business Videos
Sahara Las Vegas sues blogger over closure rumor - VIDEO
Sahara Las Vegas has filed a defamation lawsuit against Scott Roeben, the man behind vitalvegas.com, for reporting a rumor that the Las Vegas Strip property would close in September.
MGM Resorts announces “Viva Las Office” program - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International announced its new “Viva Las Office” program that encourages business travelers to work remotely from the Bellagio or Aria.
Las Vegas housing market sees record prices despite pandemic
Las Vegas’ housing market is “on fire” despite the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating effect on the economy, as sales totals surged and prices hit another all-time high last month. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sahara Las Vegas gets COVID-19 regulatory complaint - VIDEO
Sahara Las Vegas is the first property on the Las Vegas Strip — and the first in Southern Nevada — to receive a regulatory complaint related to coronavirus safety protocols. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CEO unsure if Palms will reopen - VIDEO
Frank Fertitta III, chairman and CEO of Red Rock Resorts, said the company doesn't know if or when the Palms or three other Station Casinos properties will reopen. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two Las Vegas visitors win mega progressive jackpots - VIDEO
Two visitors to the Las Vegas Strip won mega progressive jackpots on table games Friday - one at Caesars Palace and another at the Flamingo. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
D Las Vegas pulls back on dress code policy - Video
The policy barred people with face and neck tattoos from entering the downtown Las Vegas hotel-casino. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amazon warehouse safety measures
Safety measures have been set up at the Amazon warehouse in North Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Stadium hits substantial completion milestone
Nine-hundred-and-ninety-three days after the groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 13 2017 on what was then a 62-acre lot of dirt, the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders, now holds its own in the Las Vegas skyline.
Tropicana hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip up for sale - VIDEO
Gaming and Leisure Properties, landlord of the 35-acre Tropicana, is looking to sell the Las Vegas property and rent it back or sell it outright.
Circa Sports bets big on NFL handicapping contests - Video
A little more than six weeks before the NFL’s scheduled season opener, the Circa sportsbook is staring at a potential multimillion-dollar loss. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak: Bars in four counties to stay closed - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in four counties, including Clark County, will remain closed to help fight COVID-19. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa CEO comments on minor construction flaw
Circa CEO Derek Stevens, who also owns D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, said he had originally planned to fix a misplaced glass panel, but it may be here to stay.
Circa Las Vegas casino gets 1st six-ton exterior sign - Video
The under-construction Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas gets its first exterior sign bearing its name Thursday morning. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wynn Resorts Ltd. to place workers on furlough - VIDEO
Wynn Resorts Ltd. will put workers at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore on furlough, effective this week. This comes after paying its Las Vegas employees throughout the 78-day Nevada casino shutdown. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Switch, Capital Dynamics break ground on developments - Video
The project, Gigawatt 1®, includes the largest behind-the-meter solar plus battery project in the world. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small crew removes scaffolding, shoring from MSG Sphere project - Video
The MSG Sphere at The Venetian has a skeleton crew on the job site to keep watch on the project, but workers recently removed scaffolding and shoring from the site. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amid the pandemic, Southern Nevadans are falling behind on mortgages - Video
As Nevada’s foreclosure moratorium ends, homeowners must figure out how to pay off any missed mortgage payments. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Casino foot traffic slows as COVID-19 cases rise - VIDEO
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Las Vegas casino foot traffic is starting to slow, according to a J.P. Morgan analyst.
Las Vegas entrepreneur Andrew Fonfa dies at 68 - VIDEO
Andrew Fonfa, a developer of the Lucky Dragon hotel-casino just off the Las Vegas Strip, died at age 68.
Las Vegas casinos modify smoking policies - VIDEO
On June 18, Las Vegas Sands Corp. updated its health and safety plan to ask table game players and spectators to refrain from smoking or vaping.
Tourists compare pre-pandemic Vegas to today's restrictions - VIDEO
We spoke with tourists walking up and down Las Vegas Boulevard about their experience so far amid pandemic restrictions, and how it compares to their last time in pre-pandemic Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boyd Gaming Corp. has laid off at least 2,500 Nevada employees - Video
On May 22, the casino operator issued letters warning of possible impending layoffs . affecting anywhere between 25 and 60 percent of employees. The company had approximately 10,000 employees in Nevada.
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas gives notice of potential layoffs - VIDEO
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sent the state notice of potential layoffs at the 3,000-room property on the Las Vegas Strip.
Is Nevada the ‘gold standard’ for casino coronavirus response? - Video
Whenever experts begin comparing gaming jurisdictions, you’re bound to hear the phrase “gold standard” dropped in the conversation. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas activates 100,000-square-foot LED screen - VIDEO
Resorts World Las Vegas activated its 100,000-square-foot LED screen on its west tower on Independence Day, showing a digital fireworks display. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos president dies in watercraft accident - VIDEO
Richard Haskins, president of Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Station Casinos, died Saturday in a watercraft accident in Michigan, according to a statement released by the company. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hockey arena opponents erred in ballot initiative - Video
Opponents of a minor league hockey arena in Henderson collected enough verified signatures to put the disputed project on the November ballot, but then a problem emerged: A procedural error on the petition.
Layoffs at 'The Drew' force staff to sue owner
Rj Business reporter Eli Segall talks about the lawsuit and the future of the unfinished hotel and casino.
Vegas tourists react to mask mandate - VIDEO
Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Wednesday a mandate to wear face masks starting Friday. Down on the Las Vegas Strip tourists reacted on camera to the news. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
US jobless claims fall below 1M for first time since pandemic began

The Labor Department said applications fell to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week. The decline suggests that layoffs are slowing, though last week’s figure still exceeds the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000.