CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada's unemployment rate in September fell to 11.8 percent, down from 12.1 percent the month earlier, helped by the addition of more than expected private sector jobs and an uptick in government hiring corresponding to the start of the school year, state officials said Friday.
Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, called the report encouraging, given the beating the economy of this presidential battleground state took during the Great Recession.
"Monthly measures are subject to wide swings, and it is perhaps best not to put too much weight behind that volatility," Anderson said. "However, when evaluated as a whole, the economy is slowly moving in a positive direction."
Anderson said about 7,500 jobs are typically added during September, a majority of them public sector jobs associated with the start of a new school year. But last month Nevada added 14,600 jobs, resulting in a net gain of 7,100 when adjusted for seasonality.
For the first three quarters of the year, private sector jobs are up by more than 12,000 compared with the same period in 2011, Anderson said.
In Las Vegas, the state's population core, the jobless rate fell to 11.5 percent, down from 12.3 percent in August and 14 percent a year ago. Local rates are not adjusted for seasonality as is the state rate. For comparison, the unadjusted state jobless rate for September was 11.2 percent.
The jobless rate in the Reno-Sparks region fell to 10.8 percent, down 0.7 of a percentage point. Carson City's jobless rate was 10.9 percent, down from 11.5 percent in August.
Friday's report said 161,600 Nevadans remained out of work in September, and the labor pool contracted by about 2,000.
Despite the gains, Nevada's unemployment rate remains the highest in the nation, a distinction it's held since May 2010.
Friday's report added fodder on the campaign trails in the weeks leading up to election. Early voting in Nevada begins Saturday.
Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, locked in a tight contest against Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, said any decline in the jobless is welcome, but he blamed the Democrats and the Obama administration for making Nevada's economic misery worse.
"It's clear that the deficit-fueled stimulus, big government programs, bailouts and stifling regulations have not created economic recovery here in Nevada or nationwide," Heller said in a statement
Berkley, in turn, blamed Republicans in Congress for slow progress.
"Nevada can lead the nation in creating clean energy jobs, our small businesses can thrive and grow, and families in Nevada can have access to economic opportunity, but only if Washington Republicans like Sen. Dean Heller, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney drop their insistence on prioritizing the wealthy few, big oil companies and other Wall Street special interests at the expense of hardworking families," she said.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he's encouraged by the month's job growth and the slight decrease in the unemployment rate. He noted the state's exports are up one-third over last year and Nevada's more active in the world economy.
Nevada's rate is still higher than the national unemployment rate, which stands at 7.8 percent.