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August 22, 2019

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We are in a recession!  No, wait.  We are in a recovery!  Our economy is growing! But wait.  Are you thinking, “My situation doesn’t fit with what I hear in the media?”

Of course it doesn’t fit.  The media probably did not interview you and ask how you’re doing.  Why should they?  There’s plenty of economic data coming out of Washington D.C. to report on, and that’s how they sell ad space.  It’s not the media’s job to improve your situation.

Let’s talk about some of the data we keep hearing from various sources and how that affects you.  How can you use the economic data to improve yourself and your family’s situation?

1. Employment is up. Unemployment is down.

Compared to what?  Are they counting the workers who want to work but just gave up looking?  And what about underemployment?

Prior to the “Great Recession”, the Reno-Sparks unemployment rate was hovering somewhere around 4%.  The economy was good; tourism was strong, and economic development was creating jobs.  All of this led to a strong construction industry, which made it easy to find work without investing time and money into an education beyond high school.

Nevada was one of the last states to succumb to the recession, and Nevada was one of the last to recover.  Some question if we have recovered.  In August 2015, four months prior to the writing of this blog, the unemployment rate for Reno-Sparks was right at 6.1% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

Unemployment peaked sometime around March 2011 at 13.4% and has slowly but steadily declined since then.  While our labor force did decline during and after the recession, it rebounded to a slightly larger number than it was in January 2008, before the recession.  Today there are close to 230,000 people in the labor force in our market.  Employment is somewhere north of 215,000.  This tells me there are as many 15,000 or more people looking for and eligible to work, and the trend in unemployment data shows jobs are recovering.

2. Employers are looking for qualified applicants and can’t find them. People are looking for work but can’t find the jobs.

Using the numbers cited above, we find slightly less than 15,000 of the labor force is unable to find jobs.  Yet employers say they can’t find qualified applicants to fill the job openings they have.  Does this tell us that there are 15,000 unqualified people looking for work?  My guess is there are more who are simply unaccounted for, but that’s a topic for another discussion.  So are all 15,000 sitting in classrooms in the universities, community colleges and trade schools?  Where are those 15,000, and why are they not connecting with employers who need skilled or trained workers?

There are resources in the community to bridge the gap.  The Federal Government makes funds available to each of the states to invest in worker training programs through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  In Northern Nevada, these dollars are managed by NevadaWorks which allocates portions to various agencies involved in worker training and retraining programs such as Job Connect (, Community Services Agency (, Northern Nevada Literacy Council ( and many more (see  NevadaWorks is responsible for managing what is called an Eligible Training Provider list which can be found at

3. Do you keep hearing some big employers are coming to town, and do you think, “Where are those jobs?”

In the past few years, I have seen more activity than ever in my 30-year history in this town created by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN).  EDAWN has been instrumental in attracting some large and some small companies that are bringing jobs to our community.  EDAWN also works with existing companies to expand business in our market.  This blog doesn’t have the room to discuss the great things EDAWN is doing for our community but you can see a list of what was recently announced at .  These are NEW jobs coming to our area.  What is that going to do to our unemployment rate?  If every one of these jobs gets filled by people from our local labor market (see numbers above) this would cause a 2% reduction right there.  That’s just the most recently announced list.  There are more to come.

So how can you get one of those jobs?  Well, first the companies have to finish construction projects, open facilities, expand the operations, and so forth.  This can take some time, and each business has different timelines to complete.  I can’t speak about the hiring criteria of any of the companies on the list.  But what I hear when I attend Economic Development meetings is that these companies are committed to hiring from the local community first.  Many companies are working with local training providers to develop training programs to meet their specific needs.  Many of those training programs are supplemented by the WIOA monies we discussed earlier.  If you’re eligible for that, I suggest you get involved in training programs so that when employers begin recruiting you’re ready to fill that job as a “Qualified Applicant”. Training seems to make the difference between those who are working and those who are not.

4. Qualified Applicant! What is a “Qualified Applicant”?

Some of these jobs simply require a High School education.  There are approximately 70,000 people in our community who do not possess that basic requirement.  Some may ask “How do I get my GED?”  Northern Nevada Literacy Council ( is there to assist these people with free classes to obtain their High School Equivalency, formerly known as the GED.  Obtaining this High School Equivalency could become a stepping stone to further opportunities.

Career College of Northern Nevada has training programs that can provide the skills needed to obtain entry-level employment in our local market.  These programs are reviewed twice each year by local employers, who provide feedback on the skills taught in classrooms and labs/shops.  If you’re wondering if you are ready to begin training in one of the fields we offer training for, take the Career Readiness Quiz at, or visit our website at where you can get more information on the success of our recent graduates.