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Hector Padilla lost his Las Vegas house after the 2007-09 recession. It could be happening all over again.

A 50-year-old former construction worker, Mr. Padilla helped build the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and Venetian casinos on the Strip, which has been a ghost town since shutting down amid the new coronavirus outbreak. He was laid off March 16 from his most recent job, as a building engineer at Meruelo Group’s Sahara casino. He spent several days on the phone, trying to find out why he hadn’t received an unemployment payment, which arrived Monday, two weeks after he filed his initial claim.

“I try to make all the right decisions,” Mr. Padilla said. “I earn my money honestly, and it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good.”

In Nevada, where casino companies reign, an estimated one in three workers is directly or indirectly employed by the leisure and hospitality industry, according to analysts.

Las Vegas’s economic downturn during the recession of 2007 to 2009 was deeper and longer than in many other U.S. metro areas, said economist Stephen Miller at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It looks like that will be the same case this time around,” Mr. Miller said.

About 320,000 Nevada workers are at risk in the upheaval, twice the number in the late 2000s, which could push Nevada’s unemployment rate above 30%, according to a recent report by Las Vegas-based economic research firm Applied Analysis.

Casino companies are projected to lose $39 billion in the next 12 to 18 months, which is how long it will take for the industry to recover if casinos stay closed for 30 to 90 days, according to the analysis, which was commissioned by the Nevada Resort Association, a casino-industry trade group.

Nevada’s economy is among the least diversified in the U.S., with 50% of the state’s output attributed to tourism, said Jeremy Aguero, a principal analyst with the firm.



Katherine Sayre

The Wall Street Journal