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Nevada’s 28% joblessness is worst in U.S., Hawaii not far behind

                                A man walks along a usually busy Fremont Street after casinos were ordered to shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak in Las Vegas on March 21.
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A man walks along a usually busy Fremont Street after casinos were ordered to shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak in Las Vegas on March 21.

RENO, Nev. >> More than one-fourth of Nevada’s workers don’t have jobs after the state’s unemployment rate hit 28.2% in April — the highest in the U.S. and the worst joblessness showing in Nevada history.

It’s the worst any state has seen since the national jobless rate was estimated at 25% in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression, state officials said today.

“They are all sobering numbers, far in excess of anything we have experienced as a state before now,” said David Schmidt, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Nevada was hit especially hard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic because so many of its jobs are tied to the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, Schmidt said. He said Nevada’s accommodation and food service industry alone lost nearly 41% of its jobs compared with April 2019.

“Nevada now has the highest unemployment rate of any state, in any month, dating back to 1976, when consistent data became available,” he told reporters.

Michigan has the second worst joblessness rate at 22.7%, followed by Hawaii at 22.3%.

Nevada’s unemployment rate was at an all-time-low of 3.6% in February. Casinos and other non-essential businesses have been closed since mid-March.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening casinos, including the famous glitzy resorts of Las Vegas. He allowed a partial return of customers to restaurants, salons and other nonessential businesses on May 9.

The Democratic governor said in a statement today that Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19 when some restrictions began to be eased nearly two weeks ago. Sisolak’s office said he plans to hold a news conference on Tuesday to offer more details about the next phase of reopening, assuming those positive trends continue through the Memorial Day weekend.

Nevada’s gambling regulators plan to meet Tuesday and will consider reopening plans submitted from casinos, which need to be approved at least seven days before reopening.

The unemployment rate announced today was adjusted seasonably based on a single reporting week from April 12-18. The number of unemployed Nevada residents rose to 424,605, when not seasonably adjusted, Schmidt said. Since February, the state’s labor force has declined by about 150,000 or 36%.

Schmidt said nearly 573,000 Nevada workers have been affected by the COVID shutdown.

Compared with last April, Nevada has 255,000 fewer jobs. The administrative support industry in Nevada lost more than 28% of its jobs and retail trade about 21% percent.

Among the few sectors that didn’t lose jobs, construction added 100 workers and finance and insurance gained 200 posts. The biggest gain in Nevada was for federal employment, with about 900 people hired for the 2020 Census, Schmidt said.

Since consistent record-keeping began in the 1970s, Nevada’s worst jobless rate pre-COVID was 13.7% in 2010.

While the month’s jobless rate was unprecedented, Schmidt said the current economic climate is much different than the 1930s.

“We are just over two months removed from the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, not years into a national recession. And the state is already shifting back toward reopening,” he said.

Schmidt added the government provides a “much more more robust safety net than it did during the national depression.” Social Security, Medicaid and unemployment insurance were created during the Great Depression.

In other Nevada coronavirus developments

— A federal agency has awarded $89.9 million to Nevada to enhance COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The Nevada Appeal reports that the grant awarded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was announced by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats.

— The Nevada Legislature has created a new panel of lawmakers to advise Sisolak and review the state’s use of federal funding provided to the state because of the pandemic. The Interim Finance Committee voted Thursday to form a 12-member subcommittee that will be led by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, the Appeal reported.

— Nevada health officials reported that the state had 7,401 cases of COVID-19 with 381 deaths as of today. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

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