Nev. Food Service Workers Boost Jobsless Insurance Claims

May 17, 2007

A new report shows a big jump in jobless insurance claims by Nevada food service workers following voter approval in November of a higher minimum wage and a smoking ban in bars and restaurants and other locations.

Terry Johnson, director of the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said that unemployment insurance claims from food preparation workers and food serves jumped 51 percent in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Johnson added that growth in full-service restaurants also is down from an average annual gain of 8.9 percent over the 2003-2006 period to 6.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Also, an “other gaming” job category, which includes slot-route workers, showed a 2.9 percent decline in the first quarter of the year, compared with average annual growth of 1.3 percent between 2003 and 2006.

“This information represents the first available evidence concerning the labor market impacts of Questions 5 and 6,” Johnson said. “It appears that due to the smoking ban, some establishments are choosing gaming over food service, leaving kitchen workers unemployed.”

Question 5, the Clean Indoor Air Act approved in November by voters, prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, in slot machine sections of grocery and convenience stores, and at video arcades, shopping malls, schools and day-care centers. The law still allows smoking on gambling floors of casinos.

Question 6, also approved in November, raised Nevada’s minimum wage by $1 to $6.15 an hour for employers who don’t offer a qualified health insurance plan to their minimum-wage workers.

Under a two-tiered system, employers who offer a qualified health insurance plan can continue to pay $5.15 an hour, whether or not employees take the health plan.

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