After years of record unemployment, Nevada finally is seeing job growth.
Employment gains are slow but steady and point to the city and nation's continued recovery from the recession, experts say.
The state’s unemployment rate rose in June from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent, but job growth was better than expected. There were 3,700 more jobs statewide last month than in May and 23,600 more since the beginning of the year.
The unemployment rate also fell far below Nevada's 11.4 percent jobless rate a year ago.
Bill Anderson, chief economist for the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the rise in unemployment was expected since many of the jobs that were lost were seasonal.
He also attributed the rising rate to more people looking for work. That's a good sign, since discouraged workers who gave up pursuing jobs now are back in the hunt.
There were 132,400 Nevadans out of work in June.
“If you take a look at the big picture, it’s evident that we’re seeing job growth in just about all sectors,” Anderson said. “I think our growth is best described as moderate in nature.”
Job growth still pales in comparison to the increases seen during Las Vegas' boom years. Statewide employment has grown by 2.1 percent this year. At its peak before the recession, Nevada's job growth rate was 6 percent.
“We were leading the nation in growth for 20 years running,” Anderson said. “That was roughly four times the rate of growth nationwide. The problem is that kind of growth is unsustainable.”
Anderson said he expects to see conservative employment increases and slow but steady growth in the future.
Only one of Nevada’s 10 industry categories has seen job levels shrink this year: professional and business services, a broad category that includes office managers, support staff and security officers.
The biggest job growth has occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry, made up of the state’s bread-and-butter tourism jobs.
Trade, transportation and utility jobs saw the second-best growth while midway down the list was construction, one of the fastest-growing sectors during the boom. Since May, the number of construction jobs has grown by about 2,500.
The Associated General Contractors of America said June's 5 percent surge was the highest percentage increase in the country. The association estimates there are 52,700 construction jobs in the state.
But despite the growth, the number of construction jobs still falls 64 percent below its June 2006 peak.
And while the state has focused much of its economic development resources on attracting manufacturing companies to Nevada, that sector was flat in June and up by only about 500 jobs for the year.
That hasn’t stopped some companies from expanding into Southern Nevada.
ThomasNet, a New York digital marketing company for manufacturers, announced this week that it is opening a Henderson operation with 20 employees. The company helps connect buyers and suppliers using the Internet and social media.
“It’s exciting to be at the intersection of manufacturing and digital media,” said Fred Lovingier, director of ThomasNet’s Southern Nevada office. “Manufacturing is the new hot sector, innovating, growing and driving the U.S. economy forward.”
Southern Nevada also continues to be a haven for call centers.
Las Vegas-based Precision Opinion, for example, held a job fair Tuesday to fill 150 positions.
President Jim Medick started the company in 1996 with three employees. Today, it employs 571 and is growing. Medick said the company has expanded because it signed new clients that need research and data from public opinion surveys.
“This is a great market for this kind of business,” Medick said.
Southern Nevada is home to an inexpensive labor force that is comfortable with unusual hours required of national telemarketing companies.
New hires at Precision get three days of training about how to engage people in telephone surveys.
“About 99 percent of it is knowing how to be pleasant on the phone,” Medick said. “The topics are really interesting, and we do social science research for clients like the Centers for Disease Control that want public opinions on health care, pandemic flu, special needs and immunizations.”
Medick said he believes that in the soft economy, Southern Nevada will continue to have a growing need for employees with people and data entry skills.