Nevada’s job market ‘restructuring,’ economists say
High rates of economic growth and other indicators show what UNLV economists are calling “the Great Reevaluation.”
Michelle Boyce recently left her position as a career development specialist for Tech Impact, a Las Vegas nonprofit that helps young adults gain job skills and find work. She began casually looking for jobs this summer and finally took an account manager position at the Las Vegas-based IT staffing firm Taurean Consulting last month.
“I felt it was time to grow,” Boyce said. “I’m normally one to stay at a job for a year or two years but I stayed with Tech Impact for four years. Not only because of financial obligations, but also as a professional you know when it’s time for a challenge and professional growth.”
Boyce is not alone.
Recent economic data suggests Nevada’s labor market is restructuring as workers move between jobs. And like the rest of the state, the Las Vegas metro area is also seeing high rates of churn — or the pace of workers moving between jobs.
Stephen Miller, research director at UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said it’s noticeable through with the current ratio of job openings to job seekers.
Historically, there are more jobs available than job seekers during expansionary economic periods and less than a one-to-one ratio during a recession. But the national rate began rising above that ratio — of an estimated one job for every job seeker — in May 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, there’s nearly two jobs, on average, for every unemployed person.
“Other people were not coming back to the labor market because their kids were going to school remotely or they were afraid of COVID because they work in a sector that requires face-to-face contact,” Miller said. “Las Vegas, we’re heavily into face-to-face contact industries. Restaurants, bars, casinos all require face-to-face contact and now we’re slowly adjusting.”
In June, the state surpassed prepandemic employment levels and is now adding more jobs. Nevada’s employment office reported the state reached 1.45 million jobs in June, 3,000 more than its previous record set in February 2020. And state-specific data from the federal Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTs, showed Nevada had 25 percent more hires than separations through June.
Boyce said she noticed the high number of job openings in the past year, based on her own job search and from helping clients find work. She said applying to dozens of jobs can be tedious and take longer than expected but she’s observed many clients landing new jobs.
‘Pie is getting bigger’
David Schmidt, chief economist at the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said he expects to see more churn in the future in part because Nevada’s population growth adds to its economic growth.
“In the last couple of months, we’re now more in expansion mode because we have recovered the jobs we lost,” Schmidt said. “And so we’re pushing into new territory now, but we’re still seeing pretty strong growth.
“Generally speaking, Nevada is bringing in workers (and) we’re growing. Employment gains are not necessarily a loss for someone else in the state. The pie is not getting shuffled around. The pie is getting bigger.”
The Las Vegas metro area was the seventh-highest in the nation in employment growth between July 2021 to July 2022, according to the BLS, with a 6.3 percent increase in nonfarm employment.
That and other measures, such as the 12-month average of about 70 percent quits as a share of total separations, suggest a worker’s confidence in their ability to leave their job for another opportunity or retirement, Schmidt said.
Economists at UNLV view these factors as a sign of a “Great Reevaluation” — their take on last year’s “Great Resignation” trend when workers were quitting for new opportunities.
“Essentially, there was a shift in our workforce that happened over the last few years where many workers went from working in leisure and hospitality and either potentially opened a new business (or joined a new sector),” Andrew Woods, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said. “Our industries that were frontline to some degree and critical during the pandemic have some of the greatest churn in the workforce.”
But there are signs that a slowdown is coming, especially as the Federal Reserve continues to take steps to slow inflation and cool hiring by raising short-term interest rates.
JOLTs data from July 2022 showed the rate of people leaving jobs has slowed, and recently released figures from the BLS monthly employment report show hiring has also slowed. The economy added 315,000 jobs in August, compared to 526,000 jobs in July.
Schmidt said he viewed the report as an indication that some macroeconomic forces are moderating.
“Nobody wants to be on that treadmill of looking for work and changing work,” Schmidt said. “I think a lot of people generally would rather not have to go through the effort of a job search all the time. It takes a lot of energy to do that. If you can find a spot where you’re happy, comfortable and earning what you need, it’s nice not to have to do that for a bit.”
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.