By Mark Waite
The Nye County unemployment rate fell below 12 percent in December, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported last week, dropping to 11.9 percent, continuing a slide from a peak of 17.5 percent in July 2011.
The latest DETR survey showed 2,040 Nye County residents were unemployed in December out of a work force of 17,130, with 15,090 employed, leaving an unemployment rate of 11.9 percent. That’s down from a Nye County unemployment rate of 12.6 percent in November, 13.2 percent in October and 16.2 percent in January 2012. The unemployment rate was in steady decline throughout the year, except for a bump up from 14.3 percent to 15.5 percent in July.
The county work force was estimated at 17,670 workers, the same as the start of 2012, but there was an increase up to 18,020 workers in the labor force in June. Total employment grew from 14,810 workers in January 2012 to 15,170 by December.
Nye County unemployment rates began to rise in 2009, when the rate was 12.8 percent in January of that year, rising up to 16 percent by December. The trend continued in 2010, fluctuating around 16 percent, but peaking out in 2010 at 17.3 percent in July of that year.
The average Nye County unemployment rate in 2010 and 2011 was 16.5 percent, up from 14.2 percent in 2009.
But while the rate stayed high throughout 2010, in 2011 the county unemployment rate began at 17 percent, but dropped to 15.9 percent by the end of the year and rose only once above 16 percent after that, in January 2012, to 16.2 percent.
Statewide, DETR officials were optimistic Nevada could soon drop into the single-digits for unemployment rates, as the rate declined statewide from 10.8 percent in November to 10.2 percent in December.
DETR said that amounted to 138,800 people unemployed, the lowest rate since February 2009. Statewide the unemployment rate averaged 11.6 percent during 2012, down nearly two percentage points from 2011.
“I’m pleased that we’ve ended the year on a positive note with four straight months of decline in the unemployment rate and a gain of nearly 19,000 jobs in December compared to a year ago, but we have much more room for improvement,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in response to the news.
The unemployment rate in Las Vegas fell to 10 percent from 13.3 percent a year earlier, DETR reported there was a seasonally-adjusted gain of 4,300 jobs in Las Vegas during December.
The unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks area was 9.6 percent. Elko continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.2 percent.
A report by DETR said Nevada’s economic fundamentals are very much influenced by trends outside state borders, in the national and international arena. Nationally unemployment rates have gone down, but the Nevada unemployment rate is still 2.4 percentage points above the national average of 7.8 percent.
Prior to the recession, Nevada led the nation in private sector job growth, during the height of the downturn it had the most pronounced job losses in 2009 and 2010.
The 1.7 percent increase in private sector jobs in Nevada during the first half of 2012 was stronger than 17 other states, DETR reported.
The leisure and hospitality industry, the largest job sector in the state, led the way in December, with an increase of 6,100 jobs in December 2012 compared to December 2011, paralleling a rise in Las Vegas visitor numbers which have been on the rise since mid-2009.
Retail hiring increased 9,100 over the September to December period, similar to holiday seasonal hiring patterns prior to the recession, DETR reported.
Construction jobs ended the year with two consecutive months of seasonally-adjusted job gains, but DETR said the number of workers is off by about 100,000 from the peak of the housing boom.
DETR notes the number of new mortgages entering foreclosure totaled almost 5,200 during the July to September period, the lowest level of new activity in more than five years. The inventory of foreclosed mortgages eased for the seventh consecutive quarter.
The public sector job losses have gone down, with public sector payrolls at 148,100 in Nevada, 1,600 higher than a year ago.