While Nevada has been particularly hard hit by the current recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Elko area has weathered the storm far better than the major population centers like Las Vegas and Reno. Elko County’s unemployment rate peaked at 14.0 percent in April 2020, while the statewide unemployment rate reached 30.1 percent for the month and Clark County’s rose as high as 34.0 percent. Since that peak, Elko County has seen a steep decline in unemployment, with the rate measuring just 5.0 percent for July 2020. While still well higher than the 3.1 percent unemployment rate recorded in July of 2019, it is a much more stable number than seen throughout much of the state.

Employment figures have rebounded significantly across the state as the economy has begun to reopen following the initial shutdown of many businesses in the wake of COVID-19, and Elko County employment grew by 3.3 percent just from June to July. However, there are indications that the recovery may be slowing down statewide. After three straight months of declining initial unemployment insurance claims, claims increased by 39.4 percent in July. With recent announcements from companies such as MGM Resorts International (the state’s largest employer) that they will be laying off many previously furloughed employees, additional spikes may occur.

One particular bright spot in Elko County has been consumer spending, which has remained strong despite the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns of many businesses. In June, taxable retail sales in Elko County totaled $151 million, 6.9 percent higher than May’s total and 16.4 percent greater than in June of 2019. In fact, taxable retail sales in Elko County have shown year-over-year growth in every month during the current recession with the exception of March when shutdowns were first ordered. Gross gaming revenues also recovered quickly once casinos and other gaming operations were allowed to restart business in June. Elko County gaming revenue in June was only 2.3 percent below revenue from June 2019, and July gaming revenues were only down 5.3 percent year over year. This compares to year-over-year declines of 45.5 percent and 26.2 percent statewide in June and July, respectively.

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