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Ed Vogel

Nevada Economy: Jobless in Las Vegas, State Drop

30 March 2004

CARSON CITY -- Nevada's unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in February, remaining at a three-year low as the state continued to lead the nation in job growth, Nevada officials reported Monday.

The state's unemployment rate now is far less than the national 5.6 percent rate and the 6.2 percent rate in neighboring California. Unemployment in Nevada in January was 4.5 percent and in December was 4.4 percent.

"Nevada's unemployment rate reached its lowest level since January 2001 and has been declining steadily since last summer," Gov. Kenny Guinn said. "The anticipated recovery of the Southern Nevada gaming industry provides encouragement that the unemployment rate will remain low and job growth will remain robust."

A year ago February, the statewide unemployment rate was 5.1 percent.

Figures released by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation show Nevada companies have added 48,200 jobs in the past year, for a nation-best 4.5 percent growth rate.

Construction businesses have added 10,700 jobs in the past year, for a 11.6 percent growth rate.

The number of people employed by casinos and gaming hotels has dropped by 500 in the past year to 202,800. In the Las Vegas area, however, there has been a 900-job increase in gaming related employment. Now 164,200 people hold gaming jobs in Southern Nevada.

But the Reno area, hit by the effects of a new American Indian casino opening near Sacramento, Calif., has lost 1,400 gaming jobs in the past year.

The February unemployment rate in the Las Vegas area was 4.6 percent, down from 5.3 percent a year earlier. Reno unemployment was 4.5 percent, down from 5 percent a year ago.

Employment department spokeswoman Karren Rhodes said Nevada unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted to reflect peaks and valleys caused by adverse weather and other factors. In recent months, the department showed unemployment in the Reno area as less than 4 percent.

"Seasonal adjustments are important in particular to colder climates," she said. "Construction is affected by weather, so we adjust data to reflect seasonal trends."

Myla Florence, director of the employment department, was encouraged by the 200-job gain in mining industry employment. Now 8,800 people work in mining, still a lot fewer than 13,000 who worked in mining several years ago. Gold and copper prices, however, have climbed and led to slight gains in mining employment.

"Good news continues to come from the state's rural counties," Florence said. "Mining activity is increasing, and there are reports that the housing market in several rural counties is seeing substantial improvement."