July 6, 2022

Las Vegas, After Its Latest Bust, Aims for Another Boom

LAS VEGAS—Inside a strip mall here, blackjack students practiced flipping cards onto tables empty of…

Las Vegas, After Its Latest Bust, Aims for Another Boom

LAS VEGAS—Inside a strip mall here, blackjack students practiced flipping cards onto tables empty of gamblers. Nearby, a few people leaned over a craps table, the thrill of the game replaced by quiet study as the dice rolled.

At CEG Dealer School, an academy for would-be casino dealers, the pipeline of workers aiming to join Las Vegas’s battered tourism economy is robust, even though the city has the highest unemployment rate of any major metro area in the U.S.

Las Vegas is slowly climbing out of a steep hole, lifted by tentative reopenings and the vaccine rollout. The Las Vegas area’s unemployment rate was 10.5{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} on a seasonally adjusted basis in December, the latest month available—the worst of any metropolitan area in the country with more than a million residents. That’s a major improvement since the rate hit 34.2{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} at its worst point last year. January figures are scheduled to be released on Friday.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which used to employ more than a quarter of the region’s nonfarm workers, ground to a halt last spring. By January, there were roughly 30{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} fewer leisure and hospitality jobs here.

Yet laid-off workers are signing up for training at the dealer school, new casinos are opening and big entertainment events and conventions are slated for this summer. One of the Strip’s most valuable properties, the Venetian Las Vegas and related assets, was just sold for $6.25 billion to private-equity investors and a real-estate investment trust.