NEWS

Neither a boost in private-sector hiring nor a shrinking labor force could rescue Nevada from yet another unemployment record in August.

The construction sector, restaurants and professional firms all added jobs in the month, but declines in Census jobs and other public-sector cuts offset that hiring to push statewide unemployment to an all-time high of 14.4 percent, the state Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation said this morning. That's up from 14.3 percent in July and 12.5 percent in August 2009.

Thanks to seasonal hiring among resorts and other employers, joblessness in Clark County edged down to 14.7 percent, from a record 14.8 percent in August. Unemployment in Las Vegas came in at 13 percent in the same month a year ago.

Nevada has claimed the highest jobless rate in the nation since it bumped Michigan out of the top spot in May. Nationally, unemployment was 9.6 percent in August.

The boost in joblessness across the Silver State came as more than 10,000 workers left the workforce, either because they've given up on finding jobs or because they think they'll have better luck finding work in other states. Nearly 200,000 Nevadans, including 142,000 Las Vegans, lacked work and were looking in August. Factor in discouraged workers who've quit looking and underemployed part-timers who'd rather work full time, and the state's jobless rate surges past 20 percent, economists say.

The officials who compile Nevada's jobless data point out that the downward spiral of the state's labor market has eased substantially over a year ago: Employment statewide is down 1.8 percent from August 2009, a significantly smaller decline than the 10.6 percent falloff the state experienced from 2008 to 2009. Still, they said, a weak economic outlook will likely hamper any major improvements in the Nevada job market for the foreseeable future.

Nevada's private employers added 2,300 jobs in the month, including 700 construction positions, 700 jobs in food and beverage services and accommodation, and 500 posts in professional and business services, which includes law firms, architecture studios and accounting businesses. But the public sector offset those gains by slashing 3,000 positions, including 1,900 Census jobs.

The employment department also emphasized the especially hard times younger workers are experiencing in the downturn. The jobless rate among workers 24 and under is nearly twice as high as overall unemployment.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the employment department, attributed the difference to higher turnover as younger workers seek better opportunities and tough competition from a flood of experienced workers entering the job market.

"Older workers are entering the labor force due to recessionary factors, as well as the fact that their numbers have increased," Anderson said." The 'graying' of the Baby Boom generation accounts for a growing population of workers age 65 and older. The recession has devastated household wealth in Nevada, including the retirement accounts of older workers, pushing many of them back into the labor force or making them work longer than expected. Many of these workers are competing for jobs traditionally filled by younger workers."

Employers find older workers attractive for their extensive experience, their work ethic and their strong degree of loyalty, Anderson said.

Because of shifts in Nevada's population distribution and expectations for future job growth, older workers should continue to crowd out younger workers for some time, he said.