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Nevada’s jobless rate shrinks again in February but news not all good


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percentage point in February to a seasonally adjusted 12.3 percent, but the news is not all positive, a state agency reported today.

Bill Anderson, chief economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said an argument can be made that the forces behind the drop in the jobless rate were signs of weakness.

This month’s drop in the unemployment rate was driven by a fall in the labor force, as roughly 6,500 workers gave up looking for work.

“This does represent the sixth consecutive month in which the jobless rate has declined, we’re now down to 12.3 percent off of a record high of 14 percent,” he said. “But because it is such a modest kind of recovery, we’re going to see bumps along the way. And I would argue that that February report sort of qualifies as one of those bumps in the road.”

Nevada’s Recession Scorecard: Unemployment Rate:

(Source: Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.)

Monthly estimates from the employer survey show a relatively sharp drop in nonfarm payroll employment. Total employment fell by 12,800 in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, and is down 600 jobs or -0.1 percent, over-the-year. Despite weak job numbers in February, employment levels are up 7,700 through the first two months of 2012 over the same period a year ago, and by about 14,200 in the private sector.

Despite the weaknesses in the report, that fact that the jobless rate has declined in each of the last six months is a positive development, Anderson said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the news of the decline in the state’s jobless rate.

“The latest decline in our unemployment rate indicates our economic indicators are headed in the right direction, but this month’s figures are also a reminder that we must continue to strive for job growth in every sector in this fragile economic recovery,” he said. “We are fighting on every front to help businesses create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2014. Statistics from 2011 indicate more than 10,000 jobs were added, so we still have work to do.”

Non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, which allow for intra-state comparisons, fell significantly in Nevada and in its sub-state areas. The improvement is due to changes typical of the season.

Unemployment rates in the metro-areas of the state all declined. In both the Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks areas, the unemployment rate fell from 13 percent to 12.2 percent in February. Carson City’s unemployment rate declined by eight-tenths of a percentage point as well, falling from 13.5 percent in January to 12.7 percent in February. The unemployment rate in the Elko micropolitan (includes Elko and Eureka counties) area fell by seven-tenths to 6.7 percent.

Nevada’s 12.3 percent rate compares to 8.3 percent nationally.

Anderson said the softness in the February report will merit monitoring, “it is important to keep in mind that it comes on the heels of several months of more encouraging news, and we continue to believe that Nevada is on the mend.

“Against a backdrop of stable-to-declining unemployment insurance claims, expanding taxable sales, an uptrend in gaming win, and growing visitor volume, we look for Nevada’s labor market fundamentals to slowly improve,” he said.

“Our initial claims for unemployment insurance have been trending down for about 27 months,” Anderson said. “Right now they are about half of the level that they were at the peak of the recession. So we’re starting to see some definite signs of economic recovery, it’s just not filtering into the labor market quite as much, especially on the jobs front.”

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