Economists expect Nevada job market to remain weak

RENO (AP) - A changing of the calendar to a new decade won't mean a swift improvement in Nevada's job market, economists said.

Though there were some positive signs in November's unemployment numbers, economists predict Nevada will continue to lag behind the nation in economic recovery but could see some improvement by midyear.

"It projects to be a slow, anemic recovery," said Tom Cargill, an economist at the University of Nevada, Reno. "If I were a private businessman, I wouldn't be hiring or expanding. I just don't see much positive out there."

Nowhere in northern Nevada is that more apparent than in construction, which led Nevada's economic prosperity earlier in the decade.

At Q&D Construction, President Norm Dianda has pared his payroll by more than 80 percent since 2006, maintaining a staff of 208 as 2010 begins.

He said the coming year doesn't offer much encouragement, with no major building projects on the horizon.

"We'd be happy to break even this year. We may not see that happen," Dianda said. "It's going to be brutal. We'll probably have a few more layoffs."

He said Q&D is looking to bid on construction projects as far away as Colorado and Arizona.

"Will we travel to do those jobs? You bet we'll travel," he said. "This isn't going to be a pleasant ride. It's just the way it is."

It all adds up to what economists call a "jobless recovery," where employment growth, typically the last economic indicator to rebound from recession, fails to materialize as employers make do with existing staff.

"So those who remain are working harder, and we're seeing a huge increase in productivity. But it's not sustainable," Cargill said.

Bill Anderson, economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said, the state's economy will "tread water through much of 2010," without outright growth until late 2010 at best.

"As a result, countless Nevadans will struggle over the next several months," Anderson said. "We continue to shed jobs."

Still, he said, that would be in improvement from 2009, when unemployment swelled continuously until the fall, reaching a record 13.3 percent statewide in September.

Elliott Parker, another UNR economist, said the state's jobless rate could rise against through spring, especially if the state begins cutting jobs because of a looming budget deficit.

But he doesn't expect the statewide jobless unemployment rate to top 14 percent, a mark that didn't seem far off only a few months ago.

"That's partly because I expect people to leave for jobs that are opening elsewhere," he said.


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