Politics & Policy

Unemployment Paint-by-Numbers in Nevada Renders Ugly Picture

The newest unemployment numbers in Nevada do not bode well for Harry Reid, nor are they very promising for incumbents seeking reelection in 2012.

Although Nevada’s unemployment rate held steady at 14.4 percent in September, marking the first time since January the rate did not increase, the flip side is that things are no better and unemployment in Las Vegas rose to a new all time high of 15 percent. 

In the Reno-Sparks area, the rate of joblessness increased two-tenths to match the previous record high, 13.6 percent. Carson City’s unemployment rate also rose, hitting 13.4 percent. The unemployment rate in the Elko region increased three-tenths, growing to 7.9 percent.

The hardest hit industries were those most affected by the current recession: leisure and hospitality and construction, which combined lost a total of 3,100 jobs. Federal government employment also declined due in part to the census wind down. Since peaking in May at just over 23,000 jobs, the federal government has reduced payrolls by about 5,200 workers.         

Some employment projections say job loss will level out soon and then begin to subside in 2012, but this may not pan out.

Following recent economic downturns, Nevada recovered in part due to new population growth and corresponding new construction. Given the high rate of home foreclosures, falling land and home prices and low demand for new commercial development, new construction cannot be relied upon to stimulate growth anytime soon.

As for tourism, the Silver State’s other cash cow, the industry is dependent on the ability and willingness of consumers to pay for a Las Vegas vacation. Visitation to Sin City has gradually increased nearly every month in the last year, one of the few positive signs in the economy. However, tourist dollars are by no means enabling the casinos to meet their debt payments:  most are still operating at a loss.

In any case, even optimistic estimates do not predict any significant upswing until 2013, which means the President and whichever parties hold power in Congress will be facing Nevada’s hurting voters again in the next election cycle. Another Obama wave is therefore very unlikely, and the newly purple state might very well be poised to once again go red.

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