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Statewide local government employment rate drops


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada’s unemployment rate keeps creeping upward despite signs the economic slowdown has hit bottom, and April statistics from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation show job losses are now being seen in the government employment sector as well.

Nevada’s record 13.7 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reported for the month of April equates to 193,000 people out of work, the agency reported Friday.

While the private sector was shedding jobs for more than two years in the downturn that officially began in December 2007, state and local government employment remained unaffected for much of that time.

But the April report shows that local government employment statewide has lost 5,500 jobs compared to April 2009 for a 5.2 percent decline. Local government employment totaled 100,900 in April 2010.

The 5.2 percent decline in local government jobs is greater than the 3.5 percent decline in jobs for all employment sectors statewide from April compared to April 2009, the report shows.

A number of county and city governments have eliminated positions and implemented layoffs due to declining tax revenues. The Las Vegas City Council last week approved a budget for the new fiscal year that will mean 200 layoffs.

State government employment actually grew slightly during that same period, by 400 jobs to 38,600. Federal government employment remained unchanged at 18,300, but grew by 600 jobs from March due to hiring for the census.

William Anderson, chief economist for the department, said the large decrease in local government employment is notable.

“Despite numerous wage concessions and other cutbacks, many local governments are being forced to lay off employees,” he said. “In the last year, local government employers shed 5,500 jobs, or 5.2 percent. Local government employment slid by 1,000 in April alone. Job losses will likely increase in the coming months as municipalities adjust to lower budgets set to begin July 1st.”

Anderson said the census hiring is temporarily offsetting some of the local government job losses.

The census work has provided work to a total of 1,150 workers, 460 of whom were added in April, he said. Census employment is expected to peak in May or June, and then begin to taper off into the fall.

Nevada actually added 2,500 jobs in April over March, but Anderson said the labor force has also increased every month this year as workers entered the job market either out of necessity or because of renewed optimism in potential job prospects.

“Construction remains one of the most discouraging sectors in the labor market,” Anderson said. “Construction employment has fallen to a level not seen since April 1995. Since the height of the housing boom in June to 2006, construction has fallen from 148,800 to 62,700, a loss of 86,100 jobs.”

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