Construction losses hit Nevada’s economy hard |

Construction losses hit Nevada’s economy hard

Associated Press

Few cities in the U.S. have lost a larger percentage of construction jobs than Nevada’s two largest metropolitan areas over the last year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The survey by the Associated General Contractors of America found that out of 337 metro areas, Las Vegas ranked 334, while Reno ranked 336.

Between November 2009 and November 2010, Las Vegas lost 13,400 construction jobs, or 23 percent. Reno lost 2,700 jobs, or 26 percent, the report said.

Nevada’s unemployment rate hit a record 14.4 percent in August and September before dipping slightly in October. It rose again in November to 14.3 percent and remains the highest in the nation. The national rate is 9.8 percent.

A booming construction industry helped fuel Nevada’s rapid growth in the 1990s and earlier this decade. But those jobs disappeared under the weight of the Great Recession and the collapse of the housing market. Nevada also leads the nation in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

From 1997 to 2007, the construction industry added 39,100 jobs in Las Vegas and 8,900 in the Reno-Sparks area, according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. But over the last three years, construction employment is down 54,900 jobs in Las Vegas and 12,000 in Reno-Sparks.

“Combined, the two areas have lost roughly 19,000 more construction jobs in the last three years than was gained in the previous 10,” the state agency said a monthly economic summary also released Tuesday.

Roughly 20,000 construction jobs were lost statewide this year through November, representing a 24.3 percent annual decline. Still, the summary said November represented the sixth consecutive month where the rate of decline slowed.

And while Nevada’s jobless rate remains at or near historic highs, state economists take heart in the slowing rate of declining jobs.

“The stabilizing unemployment rate indicates that the worst of the recession is over,” the economic summary said. “Unfortunately, the unemployment rate will likely remain elevated well into 2011 before declining slowly over a number of years.”