Nevada jobless rate ticks down to 8.7 percent

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada's unemployment rate ticked down to 8.7 percent in January, marking the 37th month of year-over-year job growth and the first time since 2008 that statewide jobs reached 1.2 million, the state reported Monday.

January's rate was down from a revised 9 percent in December, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported. Nevada's unemployment rate remains the second-highest in the nation behind Rhode Island. The national jobless rate was 6.6 percent.

Nevada led the nation in January in employment gains, up 3.4 percent over the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state still has 92,000 fewer jobs than when the recession began and 118,500 people were unemployed in January. But Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the tide appears to be shifting as job gains are starting to outpace losses.

"Times are changing," Anderson said, noting that recent data "shows solid job growth had begun contributing to our economic prosperity."

"Job losses from business closures are historically low and job gains from business openings are rebounding, advancing the net change between gross job gains at opening establishments and gross jobs losses are closing establishments to levels reminiscent of the pre-recessionary period," he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who made job creation a cornerstone of his term goals, said the state has gained nearly 61,000 jobs over the last three years.

"While we have seen great improvements in our economy, there is still more work to be done," said Sandoval, who is seeking re-election in November without any major opposition. "Growing our economy and creating jobs will continue to be among my highest priorities."

Anderson said 8 out of 10 "super sectors" in Nevada's economy added jobs in the past year. With fewer jobs being shed, the state gained 8,000 jobs in January from December.

In Las Vegas, January's jobless rate remained unchanged at 8.9 percent. Reno-Sparks saw an increase to 9.1 percent from 8.2 percent in December, while Carson City's rate climbed to 10.3 percent from 9.2 percent. Regional unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, so the statewide adjusted rate does not correlate with local figures.

Despite the increases in the local rates, Anderson said those areas have seen job growth over the past year, with the Reno-Sparks area expanding at a rate of 4.8 percent.

Las Vegas grew at 2.7 percent, adding 22,300 jobs in January over the same month a year earlier.

Carson City's job growth was flat, and the 200 jobs added were offset by declines in government sector employment.

Statewide, Anderson projected jobs in retail, administrative, waste management and leisure and hospitality sectors would near all-time highs in 2014.

He predicted the construction industry that was hammered during the recession when the state's housing market collapsed "should make noticeable advances" in 2014, but the number of jobs gained will fall short of being considered a recovery.

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