A wide range of economic consequences have resulted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from severe labor shortages to inflation. Noah Glick and Kaleb Roedel of KUNR explore how Northern Nevada is faring nearly two years after the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
Noah Glick (Nathan Glick): Just a few days ago, EDAWN hosted its annual status of the Northern Nevada economy conference. So, here’s the million-dollar question: what exactly is going on with the economy of Northern Nevada? How are things going for you right now?
As a whole, the Reno-Sparks economy has recovered quite well from the pandemic, according to Kaleb Roedel. Consumer spending is at an all-time high, according to the Census Bureau. The jobless rate has dropped below 3 percent once again. In fact, the region currently has 3,400 more jobs than it did a month before the COVID disaster struck.
Consequently, we have more work opportunities now than we did prior to the pandemic. Glick:
Roedel: That’s right. And this is despite the fact that there have been numerous layoffs and the Great Resignation.
I’m talking about the labor shortages that we’re talking about… Wow. Well, I believe that what we have to emphasize is that some industries have been particularly hard struck in Nevada, and I believe this is true. Perhaps you could tell me about some of the industries you’ve noticed that have been disproportionately affected?
Roedel: You’re absolutely correct. I chatted with Brian Gordon, a research analyst with the Las Vegas-based research business Applied Analysis, about his experiences. He spoke at the EDAWN event [last] week, and he stated that some industries, such as business services, transportation, and utilities, have experienced significant job growth, while others, such as manufacturing, have experienced declines.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) BRIAN GORDON: In the leisure and hospitality sector, it is not surprising that this particular industry has lost almost 4,000 employment since the beginning of COVID. And, you know, the reality is that it is possible that not all of those jobs will be reinstated.
As for this pool of workers who don’t necessarily have a job to go back to you, Glick wonders what will become of them.
To be sure, that’s a huge subject that corporate executives and other economic leaders are grappling with right now. According to Mike Kazmierski, the CEO of EDAWN, the state need a more sustained effort to upskill employees so that they can fill some of the opportunities already available in developing areas that are always hiring, such as manufacturing and logistics, he believes.
When you take someone who has a lot of talents in a dying business, such as gaming or tourism, and upskill them to a profession that pays a lot more and allows them to stay and live in this country, you have a winner.
Glick: As a result, he brought up the subject of upskilling. So, what precisely is this?
To put it simply, it is the process of taking someone who is now employed in an area such as tourism or gaming and transforming them into someone who can fill a position in advanced manufacturing. So, for example, teaching children coding, robotics, and other skills that will be required for future professions is a good idea.
Glick: That’s what I meant. OK. Nonetheless, we’ve also heard about the Great Resignation, which involves large groups of individuals departing their jobs in large numbers and causing labor shortages. Do you think that’s something that the leaders in this place are concerned about?
Certainly, that is another million-dollar question, since these business and economic executives aren’t sure if these individuals want to return to work. Roedel: You should be aware that some people are opting to simply abandon the job force altogether. A large number of them are stepping down. In fact, in Nevada, 41 percent of those who have left the employment as a result of the pandemic have simply decided to retire from their jobs. And a large number of them did so quite early. It wasn’t in their plans, but they just decided whether it was because of health issues or because they’d had enough of the situation. He and his wife wished to spend more time with their children and grandchildren. They had only barely gotten out. In fact, that has consistently been the most popular explanation in the country.
Glick: I simply want to double-check that I got the number correctly. Is it true that 41 percent of individuals who have lost their employment in Nevada as a result of the pandemic have decided not to return to the workforce?
Roedel: That’s correct – 41 percent. Another common reason for people to leave the workforce is because they were unable to meet their child care obligations.
Glick: You’ve already done some reporting on the subject, as well. You know, we’re well aware that child care is a major concern. And, yes, I suppose it makes a lot of sense that something like this may have economic ramifications.
It’s true that many individuals are forced to choose between working and staying at home with their children since it doesn’t make financial sense to work and put them in child care when you’re barely breaking even at that stage.
Glick: Well, given the health hazards that the epidemic has shown as well, who knows what will happen. But, dealing with economics for the time being, we have to remember that we have to look forward. What will the world look like in the future? Is there anything that leaders are concerned about or anything that they are discussing for the future?
Roedel: The most pressing issue is a scarcity of affordable homes. At least, that’s the message Kazmierski was trying to get over to me during our conversation [last] week. A large number of affordable housing projects in Reno have either been developing slowly or have completely stopped building in recent years. And Kazmierski placed some of the burden for this on the shoulders of elected leaders.
(SOUNDBITE FROM MIKE KAZMIERSKI): We’re the fastest-growing mid-sized community in the country, which clearly exacerbates a problem that’s affecting communities all over the country. There are numerous difficulties, and while pricing are undoubtedly a factor, our local governments are also failing to fulfill their responsibilities.