Las Vegas Leads Large US Metros in Unemployment

Posted on: September 5, 2021, 01:13h. 

Last updated on: September 5, 2021, 06:53h.

Tourism-dependent Las Vegas continues to lead the nation’s largest metropolitan areas in unemployment, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One-Stop Career Center
Job seekers line up at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas metro area leads the US in unemployment. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In July, unemployment in the Las Vegas metropolitan area reached 9.4 percent, the highest in the US for any metro area with a population of one million or more. This is the second straight month that the Las Vegas’ jobless rate was highest in the nation. As one point during the coronavirus pandemic’s earlier stages, Las Vegas led the nation with a jobless rate of 34.2 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The Las Vegas metropolitan area includes the downtown casino district and the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The largest hotel-casinos on the Strip are in Clark County, outside Las Vegas city limits. The Las Vegas metropolitan area includes Henderson, about 16 miles southeast of downtown Las Vegas.  

The nation’s second-highest unemployment rate, 9.3 percent, was in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. That area includes Long Beach and Anaheim. 

Las Vegas and Los Angeles are two of the nation’s 51 large metropolitan areas with populations of one million or more. Of those areas, Salt Lake City, Utah, at 2.8 percent, and Oklahoma City, at 2.9 percent, had the lowest July jobless rates.

Including smaller metropolitan areas, Logan, Utah, at 1.8 percent, and Lincoln, Nebraska, at 1.9 percent. had the lowest July unemployment rates.

‘Public Health Crisis’

Las Vegas has seen higher casino wins and more passengers at McCarran International Airport in recent months.

However, the all-important convention and trade show business has been slow to return. Since 1999, Las Vegas resorts have made more money from conventions and from hotel amenities and entertainment than from gambling, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Another important tourism segment, international travelers, has also been in steep decline during the pandemic. Most of the small number of current international travelers are arriving on airlines based in Mexico. Convention-goers and international travelers, who stay longer and spend more than traditional tourists, are important in filling up hotel rooms in the slower middle of the week, according to tourism officials.

This comes as Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) recently issued a directive stating that COVID-19 is a “statewide public health crisis.” 

In July, Nevada had the highest jobless rate in the nation at  7.7 percent. The next-highest were California, New Mexico, and New York at 7.6 percent each, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in July, down from 10.5 percent a year earlier.

Road to Recovery

Tourism officials have a ways to go to attract the pre-pandemic record high of 42.9 million people who visited Las Vegas in 2016. This year, fewer than three million visitors a month have arrived in Las Vegas during its busiest periods.

The convention attendance record was hit in 2019, when 6.6 million attendees visited Las Vegas, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Complete figures for this year have not been compiled. But the number of conventions, trade shows, and large events has been smaller during the pandemic. One important event, the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, is moving its championship event after this year from Las Vegas to Fort Worth, Texas.