By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada’s jobless rate dropped below 12 percent for the first time in nearly three years in April, a state agency reported today. The statewide seasonally adjusted rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.7 percent.
It was the eight consecutive month of declines, and brings the state jobless rate down from a peak of 14 percent reached in October 2010. The number of unemployed Nevadans has fallen from 193,600 to 158,600 over the period, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) reported.
“Nevada has recorded year-over-year private sector job gains every month since early 2011, a clear sign that we are slowly but steadily working our way toward a stronger economy,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “We will continue to push for job growth in our economy, especially in key economic sectors to ensure the unemployment rate continues to decline.”
New job growth in Nevada is being driven by the private sector, which has added employment in every month since January 2011. So far this year, private sector job levels are trending about 13,800 higher than a year ago. That is on top of approximately 12,000 new jobs added in 2011. Those improvements are being partially offset by declines in the public sector, which has lost 6,400 jobs since January 2011.
Mining employment hit 16,000 jobs in April, setting a new peak dating back more than 20 years.
The unemployment rate in each of the state’s three metropolitan areas fell below 12 percent and reached levels not seen in nearly three years. In the Las Vegas region, the unemployment rate fell to 11.6 percent in April, down from 12 percent in March. The unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks area fell by six-tenths to 11.4 percent in April.
In the capital region, the unemployment rate fell six-tenths to 11.8 percent in April, down from 12.4 percent in March. In the Elko micropolitan area (Elko and Eureka counties), the unemployment rate declined three-tenths to 6.3 percent. The rate is 5.2 percentage points lower than the statewide average and 1.4 points lower than the national average of 7.7 percent.
The local rates are not seasonally adjusted.
“Much has been made of late about the underlying reasons behind the downtrend in the unemployment rate,” said Bill Anderson, chief economist for DETR. “While job growth has been positive of late, contributing to the drop in the jobless rate, there are some structural forces at play, as well. Specifically, the labor force participation rate (LFPR) has been trending down both at the state and national level for many years.”
At the beginning of the recession, about 66 percent of the U.S. population was in the labor force (either employed or unemployed). As of April, the LFPR was just 63.6 percent, suggesting individuals (presumably without a job) are dropping out of the labor force and are not counted amongst the unemployed.
In Nevada, the labor force participation rate has been trending down since the early 1980’s, after reaching a peak of 73.7 percent. The current LFPR stands at 64.9 percent, down from 67.8 since the start of the recession. While recent declines in the LFPR can be attributed to a poor job market, longer term trends point to changes in the structure of the economy and demographics of the population.
Results were mixed for Nevada’s major industry sectors. Mining employment rose by 100 in April and set a new series peak dating back to 1990. The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 2,900 jobs, with a strong showing from retail trade (+1,600), transportation/warehousing/utilities (+1,100); and an increase of 200 jobs in wholesale trade.
“On the down side, a number of industries shed employment in April,” Anderson said. “Construction (-900) continued to trend down, setting a new post-boom low.”
DETR economist Bill Anderson says the April report shows stable and steady improvement:
Anderson says mining activity has led to low jobless rates in much of rural Nevada: