Nevada's Unemployment Rate Drops In August But Remains Highest In The Nation

Sep 25, 2020

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For the first time since the pandemic began, Nevada’s unemployment rate dipped below the state’s Great Recession peak, dropping one percentage point to 13.2 percent for the month of August.

Unemployment rate chart showing a comparison between Nevada's rate and the national average. Nevada ranks dead last of all the states and the District of Columbia.
Credit DETR, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

But while the state’s metric is heading in the right direction, Nevada’s unemployment rate remains in 51st place — dead last of all states and the District of Columbia. And the latest claims statistics released on Friday, September 18, show initial applications for benefits ticked up slightly after recently hitting their pandemic low.

“The challenges posed by the pandemic continue to weigh on the labor market, and the response to COVID-19 by businesses and the public continues to evolve,” David Schmidt, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said in a statement on September 16. “Although the labor market continues to improve, we still have a long road ahead for a full recovery.”

Reopenings could present a bright spot going forward. DETR cited the closures of bars that don’t serve food in major metro areas as a limiting factor on the economy, but a task force decided earlier [last] week that bars in Clark, Washoe and Elko counties can reopen effective Monday, September 21.

Still, Nevadans are relying heavily on unemployment to sustain them. The $387 million in regular unemployment benefits paid out during the month of August is 18 times the amount paid out in August 2019, and the average recipient has been on benefits for 14 weeks.

The number of claimants who exhausted their first round of unemployment benefits in August and are likely moving on to special extension programs activated specifically for the downturn is on the rise. Nearly 20,000 Nevadans received a “final payment” in August, up 55 percent from the figure from July.  

Many claimants are still reporting troubles getting the payments they’re owed, although in recent weeks, DETR hasn’t released the number of individuals who are getting paid or the number who are pending and why. A court case pushing for quicker payment of benefits is on hold as the parties seek to settle the dispute; a mediation conference is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Read the full story at The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on September 18, 2020.