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Economist: unemployment rate likely to rise

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

Nevada’s unemployment picture is likely to worsen in the months ahead, a state economist said Friday after reporting statewide increases in the jobless rate for December.

After two months of decreasing jobless rates, the unemployment rate in Carson City last month grew to 12.7 percent, up from 11.2 percent in November, dimming the possibility of a quick recovery, according to data released by the Department of Employ-ment, Training and Rehabil-itation Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate grew from 12.3 percent in November to 13 percent, just shy of the all-time high of 13.3 percent in September.

“To cap an already dismal year, employers shed an additional 12,500 jobs in December, casting further doubt on the likelihood of a near-term economic recovery in Nevada,” said Bill Anderson, a state economist.

Washoe County’s jobless rate jumped to 12.7 percent, up 1.3 percent, and the Las Vegas area shot up by 1 percent, ending 2009 at 13.1 percent.

At 16.5 percent, Lyon County had the highest unemployment rate in the state. Douglas County jumped from 11.8 percent to 13.1 percent.

From November to December, Las Vegas shed 9,900 jobs; the Reno-Sparks area 1,600; and 100 for Carson City. Throughout 2009, the state shed 76,100 jobs.

Statewide, the construction industry shed 5,300 jobs with 4,700 leaving Las Vegas after the opening of the City Center. Also, the hospitality industry shed 3,900 jobs in December, 3,000 of them from Las Vegas.

Anderson said Nevada’s economic growth slowed in the past decade given two recessions, one the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the most recent from the housing bubble.

On average, Nevada’s employment base has grown by 76 percent each decade since 1940. But in the past decade, it grew just 15 percent while the population growth slowed from a 70 percent increase in the 1990s to 30 percent from 2000 to 2009.

Meanwhile, the construction industry has lost the most jobs, 71,600, followed by leisure and hospitality with 44,100 jobs lost, while education and health services continue to grow with increasing demand, Anderson said.

“Over time, population and employment tend to move hand in hand,” Anderson said. “Prior to the current recession, Nevada’s economy was among the strongest in the nation, if not the strongest. As a result, the state served as a magnet for individuals in search of increased economic opportunity.”

The recession, which started in December 2007, is now the longest and deepest in state history, Anderson said. The runner-up, which occurred in the early 1980s, lasted 18 months.

“Despite the length and depth of the downturn, Nevada’s job market will likely worsen in the months ahead,” Anderson said.