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Nevada’s economy among most vulnerable to virus impacts, reports find

With the Strip effectively closed by the coronavirus pandemic, job losses have soared to record levels in Nevada.

Unemployment has shot higher nationwide as well amid the turmoil, but given their heavy dependence on tourism to fuel the economy, Las Vegas and Nevada are among the most vulnerable places in the nation to COVID-19, recent reports show.

Oxford Economics last week ranked Nevada the second-most economically vulnerable state behind Maine. The analytics firm said the Silver State gets more than four times as much of its gross domestic product from the tourism sector as the country as a whole.

It also considered states’ elderly populations, retail activity and small businesses, among other factors, in compiling the list.

Meanwhile, real estate research group Yardi Matrix reported Tuesday that 49 percent of Southern Nevada’s workers are in industries most at risk for job losses during the pandemic, including leisure and hospitality, retail and construction.

Las Vegas’ share was highest among the 50 metro areas tracked for the report.

“I think we’re going to be hurt badly,” said Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research. “The real issue is how long it’s going to last.”

Las Vegas consultant John Restrepo, founder of RCG Economics, said it “makes sense” that Nevada would be among the most vulnerable states amid the crisis.

The virus outbreak has devastated the U.S. travel industry amid widespread stay-at-home orders, mandated business closures and fears of big gatherings, shutting off Las Vegas’ main economic engine.

“Even if we were under a glass bubble and everything was open here … there wouldn’t be people traveling here,” Restrepo said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak last month ordered casinos and other nonessential businesses closed in Nevada to help contain the coronavirus, while letting construction, hospitals, grocery stores and other businesses deemed essential stay open.

The Las Vegas Valley makes up the bulk of Nevada’s population. According to state data, 25 percent of Nevada’s labor pool works in leisure and hospitality.

As Miller alluded to, there are still plenty of unknowns, including the virus’ reach, how long businesses will remain shuttered and how quickly they will staff up once they reopen.

But so far, the economic damage has been swift and severe.

Through the week that ended April 4, about 271,530 Nevadans have filed initial unemployment insurance claims this year, more than in the last two years combined, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation recently reported.

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

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