Nevada jobless rate hits record |

Nevada jobless rate hits record

In May, Nevada’s unemployment rate reached its highest level since the state began keeping records in 1976.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted rate reached 11.3 percent, which equates to 154,600 workers looking for jobs. The rate was at 11 percent without making seasonal adjustments.

That rate is nearly double the May 2008 rate of 5.8 percent and two-thirds of a percent higher than in April.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said there is some sentiment the U.S. economy may be near the bottom of the recession. Unfortunately, he said, Nevada’s employment doesn’t rebound as quickly as in some other areas.

“Hence, when a recovery does take hold in Nevada, labor market conditions will likely not respond immediately,” he said. “This recession has hit the state extremely hard.”

Anderson said only six other states – Michigan, Oregon, North and South Carolina, Rhode Island and California – had higher unemployment rates in May.

The national unemployment rate rose a half percent from April to May, reaching 9.4 percent. Anderson said between 2002 and 2006, the state’s jobless rate was consistently lower than the national average. Since then he said the rate has been higher in Nevada.

For Carson City, however, the rate seemed to stabilize in May. Carson, which has been suffering higher rates of unemployment than the statewide average, remained at 10.8 percent from April to May with an estimated 3,200 out of work. Carson now has a total labor force of 29,800 – a full 1,100 more than in May of 2008.

In the Reno-Sparks area, unemployment hit 11.2 percent with 25,400 out of work. But that is just two tenths higher than in April.

The corner of Nevada doing the best is Elko’s reporting area, which is still buoyed by the strong mining industry. Unemployment there remained at 6 percent.

That, however, is still up from the 3.6 percent rate Elko reported in May 2008.

Most of the change over the month occurred in Las Vegas where the rate jumped from 10.4 percent in April to 11.1 percent in May.

For the calendar year thus far, Churchill County’s unemployment rate has been fairly stable, at 8.7 percent in January to a high of 9.2 percent in February but down to 8.3 percent in May. There are a total of 13,670 workers in Churchill.

Douglas has been fairly steady as well but consistently around 11 percent for each of the five months of 2009. The May number was 10.9 percent in Douglas.

Hardest hit in western Nevada is Lyon County which began this year at 15.1 percent and remained over 15 percent for the first four months of the year.

In May, Lyon saw a bit of improvement as the rate fell to 14.7 percent of the 24,450-person labor force.

Storey County also saw a modicum of improvement in May, reporting 11.4 percent unemployment. That is down more than a percent from the county’s high of 12.5 percent in February.

One good sign for the state’s economy was the addition of 1,400 jobs in the food services and drinking places categories. That comes after an 1,100-job addition in April from March numbers.

However, employment dropped significantly in both the construction and casino industries.

According to Anderson, the recession is having a rougher impact on the largest companies. Between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2008, companies with more than 500 workers lost 11.4 percent of their workforce. Medium-sized businesses with 50-499 employees lost 9.8 percent.

Small businesses with less than 50 workers, he said, fared better, losing just 4.4 percent of their employees.