DETR reports 9.2% unemployment, but Nevada workforce also underutilized

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada’s unemployment rate fell to 9.2% in December, dropping from 10.4% in November, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

But the employment picture is still dim, with almost 100,000 fewer jobs in the state as the tourism-based economy waits out the COVID-19 pandemic. Most jobs in live entertainment and conventions have yet to return, and resorts have adjusted to less demand as air travel continues to suffer.

Month-to-month comparisons that tend to emphasize any positive growth fail to take into account some other aspects of the situation for people who need jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics produces reports that look at labor underutilization. Those reports show Nevada has the nation’s worst employment problem in five out of six categories — and just barely behind New York in the percentage of people unemployed 15 weeks or longer.

These statistics show Nevada dealing with the highest rate of discouraged workers — people who are not in the labor force but who want to be working. They are excluded from the unemployment count because they haven’t looked for work in the prior four weeks.

Similarly, Nevada’s rate of “marginally attached” workers leads the nation — people who are working part-time because they can’t get full-time work.

Also, initial claims for unemployment have risen in consecutive weeks in Nevada. It appears that some of these claims are related to lapses in programs that provided extendend benefits. Claimants were directed to file new claims as DETR scrambled to help people who were in programs that were expiring.

The raw numbers released today by DETR show increases in jobs — growth of 8,200 jobs since November. But still far lower than December 2019 levels. Unemployment was at 3.7% a year ago.

David Schmidt, Chief Economist for DETR, noted, “While the 9.2 percent unemployment rate is less than one-third of its record high of 30.1 percent in April, December’s labor force participation rate also fell below 60 percent for the first time since May, with a growing number of individuals neither working nor looking for work.”

Nevada has had eight consecutive months of employment growth and ongoing improvement in the state’s unemployment rate, but that growth was well short of bringing the state back to normal employment.

“As we enter 2021, Nevada remains one of the states feeling the deepest impacts from the COVID pandemic,” Schmidt said.

DETR’s monthly report also shows that the UI trust fund has dipped into the red. Officials said last month that Nevada would have to borrow from the federal government to cover unemployment claims — something it had to do during the Great Recession that began in 2008.

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