LAS VEGAS (AP) — While the days of Nevada’s double-digit unemployment are in the rearview mirror, a new report shows just how far the state’s pace of economic recovery lags behind the U.S. as a whole.
Researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Center for Business and Economic Research released a report Monday showing a yawning gap between average weekly earnings in Nevada and those in the nation overall. The gap is driven by a sharp drop-off in the number of hours Nevadans in the private sector are working each week, and meager gains in the average hourly income.
“The limited extent of Nevada’s employment recovery understates just how far Nevadans have fallen behind the pace of the national recovery,” wrote Stephen P. A. Brown, director of the research center.
Nevadans’ average weekly earnings this August were 7.9 percent below what they were in August 2007. But the trend is the opposite at the national level. Private sector workers nationwide were earning 15.7 percent more this August than they were six years earlier.
On average, Nevadans are working 8.9 percent fewer hours each week than they were in August 2007. Hours for U.S. workers as a whole are down 0.6 percent since before the recession.
An even more dramatic shift can be seen in Nevada’s leisure and hospitality sector. Prior to the recession, employees there were working relatively long hours, according to report authors, but the slipping economy eased the demands for overtime. Hospitality employees have seen their weekly hours drop 14.5 percent since then.
“The loss in hours worked is the highest in the leisure and hospitality industry, but the decline in the hours worked is widespread across Nevada’s industries,” Brown said.
Post-recession statistics face a difficult comparison because the state had better-than-average weekly earnings in 2007. Since then, other competitors have moved in on Nevada’s dominant tourism industry.
“Gaming and hospitality are just seeing a lot more competition nationally and internationally than was seen in 2007. Recovery hasn’t been as strong in that industry,” Brown said in an interview. “Spending per person is still lower.”
Wages are also hampering the pace of Nevada’s recovery, but to a lesser extent. Hourly income in Nevada’s private sector is up 1.2 percent in the past six years, while hourly wages in the U.S. as a whole are up 15 percent. States that have a more diverse set of industries, and especially those with jobs that require highly educated workers, are faring better, Brown said.
“We are seeing a recovery, but it’s just that the recovery is a lot weaker than measures like unemployment and employment are telling us,” he added. “We have a long ways to go to recover the standard of living that was seen in 2007.”