Douglas unemployment climbs to highest rate so far |

Douglas unemployment climbs to highest rate so far

Staff Reports

Douglas County’s unemployment rate hit its highest level in December 2010, according to numbers released this morning by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Douglas County’s unemployment rate hit 15.7 percent in December, jumping .9 percent from November.

The numbers of Douglas County jobless jumped 150 people in December while the total labor force decreased 260 people to 22,050. That’s 740 fewer people in the labor force that were working in January 2010.

Total employment in December was at its lowest level during the year.

Neighboring Lyon County’s unemployment rate continues to lead the state with 18.7 percent. Nye County had the second highest unemployment rate in the state with 17.1 percent.

All three counties were hit hard when the construction industry collapsed.

Following a few months of relative stability, Nevada’s unemployment rate increased to a seasonally adjusted 14.5 percent in December.

At 14.5 percent, an estimated 193,500 Nevadans are out of work and seeking new employment opportunities, said Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

“December brought a mixed bag of economic news. Nevada’s employers reported improvement, while results of the household survey for unemployment showed the opposite,” Anderson said. “December’s increase does not change indications that the distressed labor market is starting to stabilize. It will simply be a long process to reverse the damage caused by the recession over the past few years. The labor market must begin to stabilize before it can turn around.”

The pronounced impacts of the recession on Nevada’s residential real estate and construction sectors have been well-documented, Anderson said. A brief analysis of historical price trends highlights the end result of these forces. As measured by the widely-distributed S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, prices in Nevada rose by approximately 50 percent between the beginning of calendar year 2000 and the first quarter of 2004. Trends during this period were very similar to those in the U.S., as measured by activity in 20 major metropolitan areas.

Prices in Las Vegas then rose by, roughly, an additional 55 percent to reach their mid-2006 peak. Over the same period, prices throughout the country rose just 35 percent. Since then, Las Vegas home prices have fallen back to levels seen in calendar year 2000. While prices have also trended down considerably in the nation as a whole since mid-2006, they still remain about 45 percent higher than at the beginning of 2000.

Construction employment in Nevada has, at least in part, been driven by these developments.

After peaking at close to 150,000 in mid-2006, job levels have declined to 57,100 as of December.

As of June 2006, the construction sector accounted for 12 percent of employment in Nevada, about double the share for the nation as a whole. As of December 2010, construction accounted for 5 percent of total employment in Nevada, compared to a 4.2 percent share in the nation as a whole.