Nevada’s 14.4 Percent Unemployment Tops Nation; Has More Than Tripled from 4.4 Percent at Time of 2006 Midterm Election

By Terence P. Jeffrey | October 8, 2010 | 2:06 PM EDT

Las Vegas, Nevada (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Nevada’s unemployment rate of 14.4 percent is the highest for any state in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is more than triple the 4.4 percent unemployment rate Nevada experienced in November 2006 when Congress faced its last mid-term election and Democrats took control of both houses of Congress from Republicans.

Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) became Senate majority leader in January 2007, following his party’s victory in the November 2006 election.

The national unemployment rate was 5.4 percent at the time of the midterm election in November 2006. The BLS announced this morning that in September of this year, the national unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, holding steady from 9.6 percent in August. (BLS’s most recent state-by-state unemployment rates are for August of this year. The agency says it plans to release September’s state-by-state unemployment rates on Oct. 22.)

Nevada’s 14.4 percent unemployment rate for August 2010 was the highest single monthly unemployment rate Nevada has experienced in the 34 years since 1976, the first year for which state unemployment rates are posted on the BLS website.

The unemployment rate in Nevada has increased or held steady in every month between November 2006 and August 2010. In no month during that time has Nevada’s unemployment rate declined.

In Feb. 9, 2009 speech in Elkhart, Ind., promoting his $787-billion economic stimulus plan that was then under consideration in Congress, President Obama warned that executives at banks that received federal bailouts should not get bonuses until they paid the taxpayers back—and, in doing so, he held up junkets to Las Vegas as a symbol of corporate excess.

“But, you know, you are not going to be able to give out these big bonuses until you pay taxpayers back,” Obama said. “You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime.”

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, an Independent, subsequently demanded an apology from the president for his remarks.

“I told him that Las Vegas' lifeblood is the tourism industry,” Goodman told Fox News a few days after the president’s Elkhart speech. “We spent years to build ourselves up to be the number one tourist destination. And with a rather reckless, cavalier remark on the part of the president, which will not be discerned by the average person in the public to apply to those folks who are receiving stimulus money--but as a general proposition, the message was don't come to Las Vegas.”

The mayor said one reason he wanted the president to clarify his remarks was that businesses were canceling meetings in Las Vegas, and “actually breaking agreements that they have with the various hotel casinos, where they were going to have business meetings, paying large sums of money to get out of those contracts, and then going to other cities, paying more for rooms and for food, because right now Vegas is bargain basement.”

“It hurts me,” Goodman said, “because when people are supposed to be creating jobs, when they cancel these kind of meetings, they're taking jobs away from the people who live in Las Vegas, from all walks of life.”

When White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked at a briefing more than a month later about the president’s remarks about Las Vegas, Gibbs clarified the president’s meaning and said Obama wanted a strong tourism industry.

“Well, let's be clear about what the president said. I don't think the president said don't go to Las Vegas or don't go to Hawaii or don't go to the Super Bowl,” said Gibbs.

“What the president expressed some concern about was companies that are getting large amounts of public funding, taxpayer funding through a financial stabilization plan, that the president does have great concern with public money being used for that,” said Gibbs. “But the president believes in--it's important to have a strong tourism industry.”

Unemployment in Nevada has climbed 4.3 points—from 10.1 percent to 14.4 percent—since Feb. 2009, when Obama signed his stimulus program into law. 

Michigan’s unemployment rate of 13.1 percent ranks second among the states after Nevada’s unemployment rate of 14.4 percent. Like Nevada, Michigan’s unemployment is significantly higher than it was in November 2006 (when it 7.0 percent) and February 2009 (when it was 12.0 percent). But unlike Nevada, Michigan’s unemployment rate has trended down in 2010 have peaked at 14.5 percent in December 2009.