Out-of-town workers head home after Las Vegas job market tightens

A smear of chopped onions, chili, mustard and frankfurter covers the one-eyed carpenter’s chin at Henderson’s Motor City Coney Island restaurant.

If you’re down and out, Al Mitchell declares, his voice rising over a smooth Smokey Robinson tune on the radio, it’s better to be with family and friends.

"I can’t find any work any more in Las Vegas so I guess I’ll have to head back home where people care about me," he said Tuesday at the eatery, owned by former Detroiter Emanuel Sanchez, where juicy hot dog creations found in southeast Michigan are served up.

There are, Mitchell grunted, 2,000 carpenters on the union hall out-of-work, or waiting list, ahead of him.

"I’m getting really worried about how I’m going to pay my child support and other bills," he said. "I saved some money, but that can’t last forever."

As the 45-year-old Mitchell talks, his right eye waters. A blood disorder caused him to lose vision in the eye a few years back.

"I may get a prosthesis for the eye," he said, using a napkin to dry the tears.

Above him hang mementos of past titles by Detroit’s professional sports teams. They sway in the drafts blasted out of the air conditioner.

Motor City Coney Island has become a gathering spot for some of the thousands of native Michigan construction workers who left the country’s worst economy to work in Las Vegas.

Sanchez said he’s heard some of them say recently they must have brought Michigan’s long, sick economy with them.

Though he worked pretty steadily in Las Vegas until a little over a month ago, Mitchell said if he doesn’t get a job soon he’ll follow in the footsteps of other construction workers from Detroit who are heading back to the Motor City.

Still, the Detroit he might return to continues to reel from auto plant closures, and unemployment there is now at a staggering 22 percent; it’s less than half that in Las Vegas. And economists say prospects for a turnaround in Michigan are probably the dimmest in the nation.

It might seem strange, Mitchell said, but he and other Detroiters who end up unemployed in Nevada return home not only for the emotional support of loved ones but also for financial reasons.

"Unemployment doesn’t give you enough money to live in two places," he said. "It makes sense to go back."

Many construction workers, Mitchell said, are men similar to his friend, Delionel Taylor, on his way home to Detroit.

Mitchell punched in Taylor’s number on his cell phone.

Taylor, driving across Iowa at the moment, said he couldn’t afford to pay for a mortgage in Detroit and rent for an apartment in Las Vegas. When he was working at the Encore and Aliante casinos, and then doing remodeling work at Harrah’s and New York-New York, he was making plenty of money.

Paychecks that included overtime, Mitchell and Taylor said, sometimes hit $10,000 a month.

But the good times didn’t last. Taylor, 34, said he has been out of work more than two months now. Even though he saved plenty of money, it was just "too much," he said, to maintaining two residences at the same time.

"I have no doubts that Las Vegas will come back before Detroit will," said Taylor, the married father of two young children. "But I can’t wait it out."

Mitchell said times have been tough since he was bumped from work a month ago at the CityCenter project. The building contractor he was with redeployed some longtime employees to the Strip after they finished a project in California, he said.

Before that, he helped complete the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas and M Resort casinos.

That construction workers from Michigan made Las Vegas a second home doesn’t surprise Dan Dyrdahl, financial secretary treasurer of Carpenters Local 1977, where thousands of out-of-towners looked for — and easily found — work up until two years ago.

A Detroit News analysis of IRS data found that an estimated 11,000 Michigan residents had moved to the Las Vegas Valley from 2001-2007, many of whom Dyrdahl found swelling his union hall.

"Two years ago, if you had a pulse, you got hired," he said. "Construction workers came here from all over the country like moths to a flame. We were one of the last places in the country that had a thriving construction industry. Now I tell workers not to come here."

Dyrdahl said many of the younger, out-of-town construction workers who’ve become recently unemployed are particularly distraught.

"I’d tell them to save their money, that this life is feast or famine," he said. "But they spent everything, bought everything on time and now they’re in a mess. Some of them have to go through something like this to learn."

Long thought to be recession proof, Las Vegas couldn’t escape the latest version of a national financial meltdown. Construction halted last year at what was to be the massive $4 billion Echelon resort project on the Strip, and away from the Strip at huge developments that include the mixed-use condominium development ManhattanWest.

Dozens of projects planned for Las Vegas never got off the drawing board.

The Associated General Contractors of Las Vegas warned that commercial construction could follow the housing market and come to a near standstill in 2009.

Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, pointed out that Las Vegas is down 13,000 construction jobs from a year ago. In March there were still 81,100 construction jobs, far less than the peak of 120,000 in 2006.

No longer, Schwer said, can Las Vegas be the safety valve for construction workers around the country.

Detroiters Mitchell and Taylor aren’t sure what they’ll do after they visit with family and friends and try to get by on unemployment, which amounts to about a tenth of what they made each month working in Las Vegas.

"I’ll probably try and build garages," Mitchell said.

Taylor predicts he’ll hit the road again.

"I’ll probably head to Wyoming," he said.

Wyoming, the nation’s top coal producing state, has an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.

Taylor said he heard from other construction workers and union leaders that former Vice President Dick Cheney made sure while he was in office that his home state "would do good even if there was a recession."

"I might as well take advantage of that."

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like