Report shows how federal aid helped keep Nevadans afloat in 2020

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A nearly empty Las Vegas Strip on a Sunday in May, 2020. (Nevada Current file photo)
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A nearly empty Las Vegas Strip on a Sunday in May, 2020. (Nevada Current file photo)

New data from the Pew Charitable Trusts highlights just how much Nevadans have relied on and benefited from federal assistance throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Earnings — that is, wages and other employee compensation — fell 3.8% in Nevada from 2019 to 2020, according to a Pew analysis updated Tuesday.  Only Hawaii and Wyoming saw larger declines.  Hawaii, like Nevada, is heavily reliant on the tourism and service industries, which took a beating as travel came to a grinding halt.  (Wyoming’s decline is attributed to its energy sector and a drop in oil production.)

Nationwide, 33 states saw a decline in earnings. Earnings for all states fell 0.9% in 2020.

Yet personal income still grew from 2019 to 2020, thanks to the unprecedented infusion of economic relief funding passed by Congress.  Personal income includes wages and non-wage income, such as government benefits and rental income.  (It does not include things like stock market investments.)  Personal income figures from 2020 capture the $1,200 stimulus checks received by most Americans through the CARES Act and expanded unemployment assistance.

Income from state and federal assistance climbed 35% nationwide by the end of 2020 — the largest annual increase since the 1940s.  In Nevada, government assistance grew by more than 50%.

That boost more than offset the earnings losses and led to U.S. personal income rising by 4.9% in 2020.  Nevada, it rose by 5.5%.

Annual Change in State Personal Income, Adjusted for Inflation: 2007–20 (Chart courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts)

Pew found that absent government assistance, U.S. personal income would have declined 1.2% in 2020.  In Nevada, the decline would have been significantly worse at 3.5%. Only Hawaii would have felt a steeper decline of 6.2%.

Nationwide, 41 states would have recorded losses in personal income if government assistance were excluded.

Economists in Nevada have previously acknowledged the significant impact of federal relief on the state’s tattered economy during the pandemic. They have also noted that, by some measures, Nevada still had not fully recovered from the Great Recession when the coronavirus recession began last year. Specifically, in December of 2019, state economists noted that wages and salaries per employee in Nevada had still not reached the pre-recession peak achieved in 2007.

Nevada’s Economic Forum, which sets the parameters legislators must adhere to when passing a budget, is scheduled to meet Tuesday, May 4.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.