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Nevada’s jobless rate drops to 12.6 percent in December, but smaller workforce partly responsible


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada’s unemployment rate fell by four-tenths of a percentage point to 12.6 percent in December, the second consecutive monthly decline that saw the number of jobless drop to 166,300, a state agency reported today.

A year ago, the rate, which is adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in the labor market, hit a record high of 14.9 percent.

“I am encouraged by the overall report of this month’s unemployment figures, with job growth slowly but surely returning to Nevada’s economy,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “This year, as we help businesses expand and recruit new businesses to Nevada, we will continue our focus on getting Nevada working again.”

Construction workers. / Courtesy of flickr Paul Keheler via Wikimedia Commons.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said the drop in the jobless rate was the result of “continued modest employment growth, combined with (a) relatively stable labor force.”

However, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate increased slightly in each of Nevada’s sub-state areas. In Las Vegas, the unemployment rate increased from 12.4 percent in November to 12.7 percent in December.

The unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks area increased three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.9 percent in December.

In Carson City, the jobless rate climbed to 12.2 percent in December from 11.9 percent in November.

The unemployment rate in the Elko micropolitan area (includes Elko and Eureka counties) increased just one-tenth to 6.7 percent.

Based upon preliminary information, the unemployment situation improved in 2011 compared to the previous year. Statewide, the jobless rate averaged 13.1 percent in 2011, down nearly two full percentage points from the 2010 average of 14.9 percent.

In Las Vegas, the unemployment rate declined nearly two percentage points – down from 15.2 percent in 2010 to 13.3 percent in 2011. Reno and Carson City experienced identical changes from 2010 to 2011, where the unemployment rate fell from 14.1 percent in 2010 to 12.5 percent in 2011. The jobless rate in the Elko area contracted by 1.2 percentage points, falling from 8.4 percent in 2010 to 7.2 percent in 2011. This was driven by record-high gold prices.

“Indeed, there are fewer unemployed workers,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, the decline in these rates in 2011 is not entirely due to an improving economy. A declining labor force also contributed to the drop in unemployment.

“As unemployed workers give up their job search or move beyond Nevada’s borders, the labor force declines and unemployment falls,” he said. “This was the case in 2011, especially during the first half of the year. During the year’s final months, we saw some signs of stability in the labor force numbers.”

On the jobs front, December employment readings came in 3,500 higher than a year ago, the fourth consecutive gain. For the entire year, Nevada added about 2,100 jobs (preliminary estimate), the first such gain since 2007.

“Many jobs were created during the economic boom of the mid-2000s, though a good many were artificially created by the housing bubble,” Anderson said. “With the bubble now deflated, a large number of workers are now left in the precarious position of seeking work elsewhere or retraining for new industries.”

Audio clips:

DETER economist Bill Anderson says the December jobs report overall is positive:

012312Anderson1 :22 50,000 to 60,000.”

Anderson says because the recession hit Nevada so hard, there is still a long ways to go to a full recovery:

012112Anderson2 :08 way to go.”

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