According to an analysis of the most recent jobs report from the federal government, Nevada’s job numbers have risen above March 2020 levels, meaning the state has recovered 100 percent of the jobs lost in the COVID crisis.
In contrast, the US has recovered about 96 percent of the jobs lost in the crisis after nearly doubling the number of jobs from April to May and adding 390,000 new jobs, as reported by Washington Post columnist Heather Long.
Economist Mike PeQueen notes that “this last 12 months has been the biggest job growth period.” Las Vegas in particular saw a yearly employment increase of 12.6 percent. “Nationwide, we still are 440,000 jobs short of where we were in March of 2020,” said PeQueen. “But Nevada has regained all of its jobs, which is very rare and very good.” PeQueen theorizes the high yearly growth as “probably coinciding with when the vaccinations kicked in and people really got into the travel mode again.”
Because Nevada’s economy in part relies on out-of-state tourism, PeQueen says that future job growth in Nevada bodes well after seeing California’s employment grow by 6.4 percent, ranked second under Nevada (9.1 percent). “California is a big market for visitors to Las Vegas, so it’s good for us when California prospers,” PeQueen elaborates. “For them to have strong growth, and second in the country, that shows that they have great momentum right now too, which bodes well for more visitors to Las Vegas from California.”
According to the May job report, the country added 390,000 to the hospitality and leisure sector nationwide, which PeQueen says is integral to Nevada, and saw employment growth in the construction and warehousing sector, a positive metric for Southern Nevada.
Not all sectors were as blessed with massive growth as the others were. Culinary Union Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge says in regards to his sector, “There’s some activity out there, but overall, the numbers have plateaued. We are still at about 80 percent back to work. That means for us about 10,000 workers that have not come back.” Pappageorge notes that in terms of job growth, “We were at zero, unfortunately, in 2020. So we need to go up from there.”
Moreover, recent data from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) reveals an overwhelming majority of people employed in the top occupations in Nevada can’t afford their rent.
The most common job in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, for instance, is retail (28,590 workers), and those who work it cannot earn enough to afford a studio apartment on their current wages which sits at an average of $25,570/year. Las Vegas renters, according to 2022 data included in the report, need to earn at least $33,920 a year to afford a studio apartment.
In Southern Nevada, only three out of ten of the most common jobs typically pay enough to afford rent for a studio apartment, which includes registered nurses ($91,870/year median salary), general and operations managers ($104,650/year), and office clerks ($36,510/year). Because Las Vegas one-bedroom apartments require a salary of $40,200 per year, office clerks in the area are priced out.
The top occupation in the Reno-Sparks area is “Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand” (as categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), held by 10,410 workers and comes with a median salary of $34,540 per year. These workers, however, can only afford a studio apartment with their salaries, as one-bedroom units require salaries of over $44,000/year. Office clerks are again priced out of one-bedroom apartments in the area, and truck drivers in Reno-Sparks are priced out of two-bedroom apartments.
None of the ten most common occupations in either city, not even the highest paid earners like general operations managers and registered nurses, can afford a down payment on a home.
Beginning July 1st, Nevada’s minimum wage will increase to $10.50 for jobs with health benefits and $9.50 for employees with benefits, scheduled to top out at $12 in 2024 for jobs with benefits. As jobs return to Nevada, hopefully higher wages and affordable housing will soon follow.