- financial crisis - unemployment - USA
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Life isn't as sweet as it used to be for many Las Vegas residents. The unemployment rate in Nevada is its highest in 15 years.
Mathew and Andrew have been waiting at this social services center since four in the morning. They’re trying to collect a check that should help them find their way back to work. These 20-year-old locals are discovering how tough the local job market has become. Matthew Herndon recalls the day he lost his job and how it felt: “You have a job and you think you have everything going good. Next thing you know, they turn around and say “work is slow” or their budget is not good enough and they just let you off basically for no reason. You’re here trying to survive and how are you supposed to do that when your employer is sending you home because there is no work?”
In a town used to double-digit growth, the crisis caught everyone off guard. Tim Burch, the assistant director of Las Vegas social services, saw it coming, but not with such force: “We trended last year that our numbers were up fifteen percent so we budgeted an extra twenty percent for this year in regard to the direct assistance we give. But the real epiphany was when we came in and we saw folks who had been sleeping outside waiting to get in our doors."
The crisis struck at the heart of Vegas where the biggest local employers are side by side - the palaces, their casinos and construction. Many of these sites are operating at a slow pace or have been shut down. And tourists are no longer filling the streets.
A few miles away, Matthew and Andrew’s neighbourhood has taken a heavy blow. Foreclosures and unemployment are rampant around here. Donnie Deem has been around for a while and she has never seen Vegas suffer this much: “I have lived in this town for fifty years. And this has always been a booming, thriving city because of the tourism and the casinos. But now even the casinos are hurting, if you can imagine. So it's really gotten bad.”
Some 117,000 Nevadans have filed for unemployment since January. That’s almost more than for all of last year. Despite warnings by social services, local authorities are struggling to meet demands. The crisis has already cost the state more than a billion dollars, close to one-fifth of its budget. The governor is comparing these tough times to the Great Depression.