Nevada unemployment falls; steady growth seen ahead

It’s a long road to recovery, but Nevada may have the horsepower to stay on track.

In Friday’s state unemployment report, local observers said they saw potential for steady growth as Nevada’s economy expands and diversifies.

The report from the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said the state added more than 38,000 jobs year over year in September — its third-highest annual gain since November 2008. Seasonally adjusted employment grew on a year-over-year basis for the 45th straight month, to 1.22 million jobs.

The new jobs pushed statewide unemployment down in September to a six-year low of 7.3 percent, compared with 7.6 percent in August and 9.6 percent in September 2013.

Joblessness in Las Vegas slumped to 7.1 percent, compared with 7.7 percent in August and 9.7 percent in September 2013.

Job growth, combined with population gains, the housing recovery and increasing wages, continue to “telegraph recovery for the Las Vegas locals market,” said Robert Shore, a Union Group gaming analyst who studies how economic trends affect locals casino operators. “Go-forward job growth projections for the state are trending upward even from relatively robust growth rates recently, though this largely owes to the landing of Tesla in Northern Nevada. Still, implied is a favorably broadening economic base for the state.”

The jobs numbers “affirm our positive view on the Las Vegas economy,” Shore said.

Should the state’s jobs base keep growing at its current pace through the end of 2014, the state will have added 100,000 jobs since 2010, said Bill Anderson, the employment department’s chief economist.

All but two of Nevada’s 10 “super sectors” added positions year over year, Anderson said. Construction led the way, adding 12.8 percent to its work force to grow to 66,100. That’s up from 46,700 at the recessionary low, but well off of a boom-era high of 148,000.

Leisure and hospitality added 1.3 percent to its labor pool of about 332,000 workers.

The only sectors to shed jobs were mining, which cut 200 jobs on a work force of 14,900, and government, which pared 600 jobs on a labor pool of 151,200.

Brian Gordon, a principal of local research firm Applied Analysis, said it wouldn’t be “unreasonable” to see the jobless rate reach below 7 percent in the next several months, “as the fundamentals of the economy appear to be headed in the right direction.”

Still, Nevada has plenty more ground to recover.

The 100,000 jobs it’s on track to add from 2010 to 2014 is well below the 175,000 jobs lost in the state from 2007 to 2010.

The state’s unemployment rate also continues to trend higher than the national average, which was 5.9 percent in August.

New federal numbers on other states’ September rates weren’t out yet Friday morning, but Nevada ranked No. 4 for unemployment in August.

Nevada also easily outpaced the nation in another key jobless measure.

Include discouraged workers who have given up seeking jobs and underemployed part-timers who’d rather have full-time work, and Nevada’s unemployment rate averaged 16.2 percent from the third quarter of 2013 through the second quarter of 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s compared with a national rate of 12.9 percent, though it’s down from a peak of about 23 percent at the height of the economic downturn.

“A number of areas have recovered from the bottom of the cycle, but they have yet to reach back to peak levels,” Gordon said. “The job market is still, in total, demonstrating some continued expansion, but we haven’t seen work load per employee recover.”

Contact Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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