Las Vegas Unemployment Rate Highest Among Major US Cities

Posted on: January 6, 2021, 08:52h.

Last updated on: January 6, 2021, 09:23h.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Las Vegas metro area has the highest unemployment rate of America’s largest 51 cities.

Las Vegas unemployment Nevada casinos
Las Vegas unemployment Nevada casinos
Many Las Vegas locals are ringing in the new year without a job or source of steady income. (Image: Las Vegas Sun)

The Las Vegas metered market — which includes Henderson and Paradise — has an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent as of November. COVID-19 has toppled the country’s largest gaming industry, and cost tens of thousands of casino workers their jobs.

Leisure and hospitality employment in Southern Nevada is down 21.4 percent. Las Vegas’ gaming industry employed approximately 229,400 workers as of November, 62,400 fewer positions than in November of 2019.

As bad as the jobs report is, it was once worse for Las Vegas. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Las Vegas’ unemployment rate was upwards of 30 percent.

New Orleans had the next highest unemployment rate of a major city. The Big Easy is on hard times, with 9.8 percent of its workforce presently out of a job. Los Angeles is third (9.6 percent), New York fourth (9.5 percent), and Houston and Detroit round out the top five at 8.9 percent.

Conversely, Birmingham has the lowest unemployment rate of a major city at 3.8 percent. It’s followed by Minneapolis (3.9 percent), Nashville and Salt Lake City (4.2 percent), and St. Louis (4.3 percent).

The Labor Department defines a major metro as having at least one million residents.

Travel Cure Delayed

For Las Vegas to get back to any true sense of pre-coronavirus normalcy, widespread domestic and international travel is needed.

Through November — the latest data available — visitor volume in Las Vegas was down 54.5 percent in 2020. Convention attendance, nonexistent since mid-March, is down 72.6 percent.

Weekend occupancy rates have tumbled from more than 95 percent in 2019 to 53.5 percent. Midweek is even worse, occupancy rate going from 86.6 percent to 38.7 percent.

Casinos rely on conventions to keep their nearly 150,000 hotel rooms occupied during the week. Unfortunately, those large indoor gatherings might not return anytime soon.

We’re talking about deep into 2021 before we have big meetings, hundreds of people,” opined David Nash, chief health adviser of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed across the country, but at paces far short of where medical experts hoped. State health officials are warning it will be many more months before the vaccine is widely available to the general public.

“Herd immunity, mask wearing, handwashing, social distancing, and better testing — if we could do all of those things, I’m looking forward to going to meetings in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Nash added.

Nevada Economy Suffering

The Silver State is heavily dependent on tourism, which is why COVID-19 is impacting Nevada more than most other states.

Nevada’s unemployment rate in November was 10.1 percent. The national average was 6.7 percent. Only New Jersey has a higher unemployment number at 10.2 percent. Nevada is tied for second with Hawaii.

Nebraska and Vermont have the fewest number of people out of work, the Cornhusker and Green Mountain states reporting unemployment of just 3.1 percent.

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