Employment:

Las Vegas unemployment rose in December, state reports

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Unemployment in the Las Vegas area inched up to 12.7 percent in December, with 5,000 fewer people on the job than in November.

The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Monday that the jobless rate was 0.3 percent higher than the previous month. Unemployment was at 12.4 percent in November, the state reported, although preliminary figures for that month had shown it slightly higher, at 12.5 percent.

For December, total employment fell to 822,700, down from the 828,600 in November.

But statewide, the jobless rate fell to 12.6 percent, its lowest point since June.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he was "encouraged by the overall report" and said it showed job growth was slowly returning.

But the number of people working in construction in the Las Vegas area fell to 40,900, down 1,600 from November. Casino employment dropped by 400 workers to 159,300.

State officials reported that manufacturing in the Las Vegas area was down by 200 workers to 18,200 for December. But utilities, trade and transportation rose by 700 workers to 148,000.

The state's report also showed that Washoe County's unemployment inched up to 12.2 percent in December from 11.9 percent in November, while the jobless rate in Carson City increased to 12.2 percent in December from 11.9 percent in November.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the department said preliminary information showed the jobless situation improved in 2011 compared to the previous year. Statewide, the jobless rate averaged 13.1 percent in 2011, down near two full percentage points from 2010.

He said Las Vegas rate dropped to 13.3 percent in 2011 from 15.2 percent in 2010.

"Unfortunately, the decline in these rates in 2011 is not entirely due to an improving economy," Anderson said. "As unemployed workers give up their job search or move beyond Nevada's borders, the labor force declines and unemployment falls."

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the new unemployment figures were a sign of progress but underscored the need for federal lawmakers to approve a year-long extension of payroll tax cuts.

"It shouldn’t be a fight to pass common-sense, job-creating policies like the payroll tax cut, or to rebuild our roads, schools and bridges," he said.

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