Unemployment numbers drop back into "normal" range

After months of record-setting unemployment claims following Sept. 11, Nevada's jobless numbers have dropped back into the "normal" range.

"It's looking better, I can tell you that," said Employment Security Division Administrator Birgit Baker.

When the terrorist attacks hit New York and Washington D.C., Nevada was averaging about 2,750 new unemployment claims a week with a total of 23,300 receiving benefits totaling $4.7 million a week.

As the impact of those attacks hit home, particularly on Nevada's tourism industry, the unemployment rate rose above 6 percent in October 2001 and didn't drop below that mark again until March 2002.

Unemployment claims rose to a high of 7,115 the week of Oct. 13. By April 5, there were a total of 45,860 Nevada workers receiving unemployment benefits and the ESD Trust Fund was paying out more than $9 million each week. In addition, the federal government was covering another $3 million in extended benefit checks.

But the number of Nevadans without jobs has been going down steadily through the middle of this year as the state's economy begins to recover.

"Last week we were back down to 3,200 claims. It's been right around 3,000 since May," said Baker.

The total number of benefits checks the department is issuing each week has dropped back to 29,500 on regular, state-paid benefits with another 9,500 on federally.funded extended benefits.

"We consider 3,200 new claims back to normal," she said.

Under the law, most laid off workers qualified for up to 26 weeks of benefits under their primary claim and up to 13 weeks of extended benefits paid by the federal government. Some workers also qualified for another 13 weeks in a second extension, also funded by the federal government.

Baker said unlike some states, Nevada's trust fund never went into the red and currently has $490 million available for benefits.

"We remained solvent through the entire period," she said.


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