There’s one important gift that Elko residents won’t need Santa to bring this year:
The unemployment rate in the Elko Micropolitan Area – which includes Eureka County — has dropped a percentage point from a year ago, and now stands at 3.4 percent. That compares with the statewide rate of 5 percent and a national rate of 4.4 percent.
Many economists consider anything under 5 percent to be full employment, which means both Elko County and the state of Nevada have plenty of jobs available in our post-recession economy.
Business owners are aware of this situation more than anyone, as they try to fill job openings. “Help wanted” signs are popping up on storefronts all over town. According to www.glassdoor.com, Elko currently has more than 750 jobs waiting to be filled.
Many of the opportunities are in mining or mining-related fields, of course. But a recent report from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation illustrates how Elko has fewer mining jobs per capita that many smaller counties.
Eureka County has by far the most mining jobs – 4,114 – making up nearly 89 percent of all jobs in the county.
Lander also has a high ratio, with 2,079 mining jobs comprising 60 percent of all jobs in the county.
Elko is in third place with 1,870 jobs classified as mining, but that total is only 8.4 percent of the county’s workforce. Esmeralda, Pershing, White Pine, Humboldt and Nye counties all have a higher percentage of mining jobs than Elko County.
While employment plummeted during the Great Recession, Nevada is now experience a shortage of many types of jobs, including the skilled labor needed to build infrastructure and facilities for other businesses.
According to a Nevada Independent article, the state currently has 10,000 construction job openings and more are expected in the coming years. The article mentions a website – buildnv.org – designed to help connect workers with construction jobs.
“Estimates are that over the course of the next several years, Nevada will hire over 35,000 people in the skilled trades,” states the website. “But the opportunities don’t end there. From skilled trade workers to designers, management positions and support staff, permanent, well-paying construction careers exist in all areas of the industry.”
That forecast is good news indeed, especially in a state that saw nearly two-thirds of its construction jobs disappear during the recession. And roughly 70 percent of Nevada jobs don’t require a full four-year college degree, Executive Director Manny Lamarre of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation told the Nevada Independent.
Still, the building boom bodes well for community colleges like Great Basin that offer technical and mechanical programs as well as traditional academic courses. Next week the college will host a three-hour presentation designed to attract students to its industrial millwright program, in conjunction with local business Ram Enterprise Inc.
A growing labor force is one of those gifts that promise to keep on giving. So far this year, employment has grown in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties. Only Humboldt, Churchill and Lyon have declined since October of 2016.
The construction labor shortage is a problem, but it is a good problem. Schools like GBC that serve a full spectrum of students will continue to be successful as the economy rebounds. It’s good to see programs that connect students with businesses. That’s the type of cooperation needed to keep opportunities coming into the new year.