CA & NV’s Slow Job Growth Continues; Spring Surge Anticipated


California continued to slowly add jobs to its labor market and economy in March; and Nevada’s job market continued reversing course and recovering — still very slowly. Meanwhile, local economists are projecting faster growth as springtime transpires.

The following are the latest March figures released this week by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Nevada Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Department (DETR):

California’s March 2021 Employment Numbers
The California report shows the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent in March 2021 (from a “readjusted” 8.5 percent in February 2021) — and down from the 16 percent peak in April 2020. Employers added nearly 120,000 non-farm monthly payroll jobs in March:

  • California’s labor force (pool of individuals willing and able to work) contracted by almost -40,000 in March 2021 and now sits at 18.9 million. It still remains almost -500,000 below its pre-pandemic level in February 2020 of 19.4 million.
  • California has now regained 44 percent (or almost 1.2 million jobs) of the approximate 2.7 million jobs lost during March and April of 2020.
  • Non-farm company payroll jobs now total more than 16.1 million.
  • However, the total number of Californians holding jobs (non-farm payroll, agriculture related, independent contractor/freelancers) was more than 17.3 million, which is down -962,000 from the combined “total” employment this time last year.
  • Non-farm payroll jobs (a subset of “total” jobs) decreased by 1.35 million (-7.7 percent) from March 2020 to March 2021 compared to a U.S. annual loss of -4.5 percent (the state is playing catch-up to the rest of the nation after suffering from above-average unemployment for many months on end).
  • 10 of California’s 11 industry sectors gained jobs in March. Leisure and hospitality (42,400) continued experiencing the largest month-over increase thanks in large part to the sub-category of full-service restaurants. Trade, transportation, and utilities (+32,200) also had large gains thanks to strength in the clothing stores and transportation/warehousing sub-categories. Strong gains were also posted in professional and business services (+22,000), led by the accounting, tax preparation, and bookkeeping firms sub-category.
  • Financial Activities (-600) was the only industry sector to suffer a month-over job loss, which was mainly due to declines in the finance/insurance and activities-related-to-real-estate sub-categories.

Nevada’s March 2021 Employment Numbers
The Nevada report shows employment in Nevada is up 4,700 jobs in March 2021, but it's still down by -134,800 jobs over the past 12 months (compared to March 2020) — a large gap that continues closing very slowly.

The state’s March 2021 unemployment rate stands at 8.1 percent, down from a “readjusted” 8.4 percent in February but up from 3.7 percent in February of last year (pre-pandemic economy). The state added jobs for the 11th consecutive month in March:

  • Las Vegas employment increased by 4,400 jobs (0.5 percent) since February; but decreased -126,200 jobs (-12.1 percent) since March 2020.
  • Reno/Sparks regional employment increased by 700 jobs (0.3 percent) since February; but decreased -4,800 jobs (-1.9 percent) since March 2020.
  • Carson City employment was unchanged since February; but decreased -300 jobs (-1 percent) since March 2020.
  • The leisure and hospitality sector contributed the largest increase in employment over the month, with gains concentrated in the Las Vegas area. Although job growth from February to March is typical in leisure and hospitality, this month’s job growth and news about increased activity following relaxation of capacity restrictions on businesses is encouraging.
  • Additionally, the professional and business services industry continues to see job growth, as temporary-help services and professional service firms add back staff (in part to support the leisure and hospitality industry).
  • Las Vegas’s transportation industry also realized job gains, specifically in air freight and air passenger transport firms.
  • While there is still ongoing significant disruption highly concentrated in the Las Vegas area, the state is adding jobs back in businesses that cater to tourism — which indicates firms may be gearing up to capture the pent-up demand for travel and tourism worldwide.
  • The combination of increasing activity, relaxed restrictions, increasing COVID-19 vaccine availability, and the return of work-search requirements on unemployment claims should be reflected in increased employment and economic activity heading into the summer.

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