After more than two months of social distancing, nonessential business closures and other public health measures enacted under Nevada’s COVID-19 pandemic response, there are signs for optimism in the battle to contain the virus. Daily coronavirus case counts and deaths have been on the decline, while the gradual reopening of the economy has been evident with increased foot traffic and more crowded parking lots at commerce centers around the state. The economy could soon get a bigger boost in June if the state’s gaming resorts are given clearance to reopen, as Governor Steve Sisolak has tentatively announced.

These are welcome signs for a statewide economy that has been battered in the fight against COVID-19. In the latest unemployment data for April 2020, Nevada registered a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 28.2 percent, an unprecedented rate that was the highest in the United States. For recent historical perspective, the state’s unemployment rate during the Great Recession and subsequent downturn peaked at 13.7 percent in September 2010. Nevada’s experience is not unique, as 42 states registered double-digit unemployment rates and the national rate reached 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression.

The depth of Nevada’s unemployment crisis can also be measured in raw job numbers. Between March and April 2020, the state lost nearly 245,000 jobs, and over the year employment declined by 255,000 jobs. Overall employment declined to 2013 levels, while leisure and hospitality employment has fallen to the lowest levels since 1993. The industries most affected by the employment declines were accommodation and food services (-40.9 percent), administrative support (-28.2 percent) and other services (-24.8 percent).

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