LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A year ago, Nevada officials were trumpeting good news: All the jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic had been recovered.

Fast forward to today, and the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) is again citing a milestone as “all major industry sectors” are now employing more workers than before the pandemic.

But Nevada is stuck. The long recovery has brought jobs back, but it hasn’t eliminated Nevada’s rank as the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Worse than Washington, D.C., and California. Other states have seen the rate fall, leaving Nevada at the top in late 2022.

A look at data from June shows Nevada with the No. 1 unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 5.4% in June to 5.3% in July — an improvement, but Nevada still has the highest rate.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%, close to a half-century low.

“The labor force in the state grew by 3,400 and July marked the 8th consecutive month that the state has seen an increase in the labor force,” DETR said in its monthly release of employment data.

A fierce competition for workers is on the horizon as major openings are on the calendar in the next three months: The Sphere, Fontainebleau and Durango Casino and Resort. That might finally move the needle on Nevada’s unemployment rate, but a lag is likely as people change jobs to work at the new properties, leaving vacant jobs at other companies.

“In July, for the first time all major industry sectors in the state have fully recovered from the COVID pandemic, employing more workers than they did before the pandemic. The unemployment rate remains somewhat high compared to other states as workers reenter the labor force, and our employment growth remains relatively high,” DETR Chief Economist David Schmidt said.

DETR announced Wednesday that Kristine K. Nelson has been appointed as new Employment Security Division Administrator, overseeing workforce programs and unemployment insurance. DETR is led by Director Christopher Sewell.

The department has been a lightning rod for criticism since the chaos of the pandemic, when Nevada’s employment rate soared over 30%. Fraudulent claims and computer system problems contributed to a firestorm of controversy around the state’s response to unemployed workers who needed help but instead met delays.

A look at Nevada’s unemployment trust fund shows the current balance at almost $1.3 billion. The trust fund peaked at about $2 billion before the pandemic.

DETR released these statistics related to the state’s major metro areas:

  • Las Vegas employment increased by 1,700 jobs (0.2%) since June, an increase of 41,200 jobs (3.8%) since July 2022.
  • Reno employment had a decrease of 400 jobs (-0.1%) since June, an increase of 8,600 jobs (3.3%) since July 2022.
  • Carson City employment had no change in employment since June and an increase of 1,500 jobs (4.9%) since July 2022.

Statewide, initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 1.3% from May to June.

The unadjusted unemployment rate increased, moving from 5.7% to 5.8%. “This is likely due to changes in the seasonal staffing patterns of schools during the summer,” DETR said.

The non-seasonally adjusted rate being up while the adjusted rate is down could be indicative of there being less of an increase in unemployment due to these seasonal factors than what is typical, according to DETR.