Nevada's jobless rate held steady at a record 14.4 percent in September, but unemployment rose in metropolitan areas, soaring to a record 15 percent in Las Vegas, officials reported Friday.
It's the first time since January the state's rate hasn't climbed from the previous month, and only the second time since the Great Recession began three years ago.
"The slowing rate of increase suggests the labor market may finally be bottoming out, though September's nonfarm employment levels seem to suggest otherwise," said Bill Anderson, chief economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
Nevada's total nonfarm employment increased by 2,900 positions in September as education workers returned to their jobs, but the private sector shed 4,600 jobs in the month.
The report said most jobs were lost in leisure and hospitality, and in construction, two industries that fueled Nevada's economic boom earlier in the decade but imploded in the recession.
Leisure and hospitality, the lifeblood of Nevada's vital tourism industry, shed 1,600 jobs in September. Construction lost another 1,500.
The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.
The jobless rate in Las Vegas, the state's largest labor market, increased 0.3 percentage point to an unadjusted record high 15 percent. In northern Nevada metro areas, the unemployment rate rose 0.2 point to 13.6 percent in the Reno-Sparks area, 0.3 point to 13.4 percent in Carson City, and 0.3 point to 7.9 percent in Elko.
Metropolitan areas are not seasonally adjusted. For comparison, the state's unadjusted rate for September was 14.5 percent.
Nevada leads the nation in joblessness, bankruptcies and foreclosures, and the ailing economy has been a key issue in the hotly contested Senate race between Sen. Harry Reid and Republican tea-party backed challenger Sharron Angle, who blames the Senate majority leader and Democratic policies for the state's ills. Polls have consistently shown the race too close to call.
Friday's report was released hours before President Barack Obama was to stump for Reid in Las Vegas.
Reid has touted his efforts to develop renewable energy sources to create jobs.
"Even though the unemployment rate did not go up, we need to keep working together to help struggling families make ends meet," he said in a statement.
He added, "By taking advantage of our abundance of clean energy resources we can create good-paying jobs that can't be shipped overseas."
The state Republican Party noted the state's jobless rate was 4.2 percent six years ago when Reid won his last re-election.
"If there was ever a time to fire Harry Reid for driving Nevada's economy into a ditch, it's right now," GOP spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.
State officials have projected Nevada will continue to lose jobs through 2011 and may not see any broad employment growth until 2013.
"Even then, expectations are for weak employment growth at best," the report said.
It noted that following past recessions, Nevada's was able to mount a rebound from rapid growth and construction. No more.
"Given its current state of high home foreclosures, falling prices and weak demand for new commercial development, new construction will not stimulate growth across the broader economy anytime soon," the report said.