Nevada unemployment jumps to 14.5 percent

After a few months of relative stability, Nevada's unemployment rate jumped in December, hitting a record 14.5 percent.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the number translates to 193,500 Nevadans looking for work.

That follows two months of falling rates, which gave many hope the economy was turning around.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the increase was "extremely distressing to me," adding that the fragile nature of Nevada's economy is justification for his opposition to any tax increases.

"The sheer number of unemployed in our state is exactly why I've said we cannot burden struggling businesses with tax increases and why we cannot ask the struggling family to pay more," he said.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the figures "reconfirm the need to focus like a laser on creating jobs for out-of-work Nevadans struggling to make ends meet."

While not yet turning around, Anderson said there is evidence the market is starting to stabilize. He said Nevada employers added 2,700 jobs in December, "a marked improvement over last year when the recession forced employers to shed 3,500 jobs."

He said most of those gains were the result of temporary holiday hiring as well as the opening of the Cosmopolitan resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

Carson City, however, saw its unemployment rate jump almost a full percent from 13.1 percent to 14 percent. Some 3,900 out of 28,200 in the workforce were looking for employment, an increase of 200 over November.

The rate was a record 14.9 percent in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, up more than a half percent from November's 14.3 percent and equal to 142,500 people out of work.

In the Reno-Sparks area, the rate increased from 13.3 percent to 13.8 percent with about 30,200 looking for work.

Anderson said the employment security system saw 26,014 new claims for unemployment benefits in December, up 6 percent from November but significantly less than the 33,021 claims filed in December 2009.

He said Nevada has seen a definite upward trend in the number of long-term unemployed. The average duration of unemployment is now 35 weeks. Those needing benefits can, under legislation approved in December, be eligible for up to 99 weeks. Nearly half those receiving benefits have been out of work 27 weeks or more.

Elko, with gold prices still above $1,200 an ounce, remains least impacted by the economy at 8.1 percent. That, however, is Elko's fourth straight month of rising unemployment.

Douglas County saw an eight-tenths increase over the month to 15.7 percent, the first time that county has been above 15 percent since June.

Lyon County continues to have the worst jobless rate in the state at 18.7 percent, a 1.1 percent increase from November. There are 4,150 out of work there in a labor force of 22,190.


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