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Survey: Nye County is poorest in Nevada

Nye County is the poorest in Nevada, according to the data from the 24/7 Wall St., but county officials say the situation is not that bad.

According to the data, the average household in Nye County earns $41,712 annually, about $10,000 less than the average Nevada household. Few job opportunities may be partially behind the county’s low median income, according to the article.

To identify the poorest county in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed median annual household incomes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The story was published early this year.

The survey also considered the percentage of adults who have completed at least high school, college, as well as poverty rates, the homeownership rate, median home values, and the percentage of area adults who identify as American Indian or Alaska native.

The 24/7 Wall St. article also cited November data saying that said the county’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate is higher than both the national and statewide rates of 4.6 percent and 5.0 percent.

Nye County officials disagreed with the data, instead stating that the county’s financial well-being has since improved.

Nye County Spokesman Arnold Knightly said while the survey uses a matrix that paints Nye County as the poorest in the state, positive trends have been seen in the county’s employment picture in the past few years.

“In February, the state reported 6.4 percent unemployment, an improvement from the numbers reported in the article in January. For a bigger picture, the county’s unemployment rate has dropped from 9.5 percent in January 2015 and 8.5 percent in January 2016,” Knightly said.

“With home construction starting again, tourism increasing in the region, new businesses in the planning stages, talk of new uses for the Tonopah airport, and the possible restart of Yucca Mountain, this all points to continued improvement for Nye County’s workforce and employment numbers,” Knightly said.

County population and density also appear related to income levels, as most states’ richest counties are considerably more populated and denser than the poor counties, according to the 24/7 Wall St. data. Of the 50 low-income counties nationwide, all but eight are more sparsely populated than their state’s respective richest county.

Like many of the nation’s low-income areas, the population density in Nye County, at an average of only two people per square mile, is one of the lowest in the United States, according to the article.

Stacy Smith, director of the Nye Communities Coalition, said Nye County’s economy is starting to get better but it’s slow.

“The whole 2008 recession hit our state hard, and I think that it’s just taking us a little bit longer. We don’t have as (many) systems and infrastructure for us to pull out as quick as some of the rest,” Smith said.

Although some residents of Nye County are well off, their percentage is not high, Smith said.

“We may not be an extremely wealthy community, but we are wealthy in people as far as volunteers, people that step forward and get involved,” she said.

Area jobs

Recently, the job board at NyE Communities Coalition is starting to have more postings, sometimes as many as 200 at any given time.

“There are jobs available in the community right now, many of them are entry-level, but there are some very technical jobs available in our community too, especially through Valley Electric and some of the other places,” she said.

Smith said that Pahrump, the largest town in Nye County, also affects the county’s overall income ranking because of its transiency and large retiree population.

“Our median income is partially shaped on that, we do have, on a whole, jobs that are lower paying. We have a lower educational attainment than our urban partners,” she said.

“We have a lot of movement in this town constantly. There’s a key group of people that have lived here for 20, 30, 40 years, but there’s a lot of movement. We are transient, and I think that impacts wages,” she said.

Smith questioned what measures were used in the survey.

“A lot of time when I’m looking at grants, and other things that come out from the federal government, they are developed on East Coast standards and rural, there is a different rural than rural Nevada and frontier Nevada. … I don’t think they see the whole thing here,” she said.

“I get that those things make us sound bad but I honestly feel like they are measuring us by somebody else’s standards,” she said.

24/7 Wall St. is a Delaware-based corporation which runs a financial news and opinion company with content delivered over the Internet, according to its website.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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