For months, Nevada has been leading most of the nation in two seemingly contradictory numbers. The state has ranked at or near the top among states in annual job growth rate, and at the same time it has the nation’s highest unemployment rate. These two numbers seem like a paradox, but a deeper look into the unemployment rate helps explain how these trends can both be true.

When the pandemic struck, the Nevada employment picture was shaken. The state’s largest employment sector, leisure and hospitality, absorbed the brunt of the casino shutdown, restaurant capacity reductions and other limitations on in-person gatherings. As a result, the state plummeted in rankings in annual job growth rate. In the three years prior to the pandemic, the state regularly ranked among the top five states in the pace of year-to-year job growth. That flipped to bottom five during a 12-month period starting in April 2020.

That trend quickly reversed in April 2021, when Nevada jumped from 48th to second in the rankings. In the 27 months since then, Nevada has ranked first in 20 months and second in the other months. Thanks to steady job growth, the state recovered the 326,000 lost jobs amid the pandemic by October 2021, and it has added another 114,300 jobs beyond the pre-pandemic high. In the latest employment data for June 2023, Nevada recorded a 4.4 percent annual job growth rate. That ranked second in the nation, breaking Nevada’s streak of 18 straight months in the top spot. For historical perspective, the 65,500 jobs added over the past 12 months was higher than in any prepandemic period since the mid-2000s.

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