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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

Affordable housingHealthNews and informationThe Economy

Unemployment low, Cost of Living High

Editors Note: Nevada continues to have the highest rate of sheltered homeless youth in the nation, according to researchers in the UNLV College of Urban Affairs. 

It currently takes $77,068 for a family of four to live in Clark County, Nevada. [i] On a mean salary of $46,170 [ii], it is impossible to take 51.49% of income to pay for childcare, transportation, and health care without both parent’s working.

In Nevada, if you are a preschool teacher, you might earn $32,540 slightly lower than a driver or a sales worker at $32,700 or a high-level cook at $32,780. One might want to give up teaching and become an embalmer.  They earn about $33,260. Installing carpets would earn one about $50,200. Give up teaching, go to law school, and bring in about $138,920. Run for a judgeship and bring home about $156.290.

Work in the casino as a hostess, food prepares, bartender, and you may earn in the mid to high $20K. A gaming dealer earns about $18,180, which is slightly above the annual minimum wage of $18,180. ($8.25 per hour x 40-hour week).

In 1957 when the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) grew up, their father earned an average of $3,700, and likely their mother stayed at home. Among women with an income, the median income was $1,200 in 1957, a gain of about $50 over the 1956 average. The unemployment rate was 4.4 percent during the 17 quarters of the 1953-57 cycle, and 5.9 percent during the 11 quarters of the 1957-60 cycle. [iii]

By 1985, the baby boomers were in the labor market, with a median family income of $29,612. If married and their wives worked, the family income would be about $34,668 (both in current dollars). [iv]  The civilian unemployment rate was about 7.3 percent from mid-1984 to mid-1985. [v]

Today the baby boomers may be eligible for retirement, but 45% of them would be without retirement income. Some 55% of them may have some savings. About 28% of them may have less than $100,000 in savings. [vi]

Currently, nearly nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits averaging In August about  $1,471, which represents about 33% of the income of the elderly. [vii]

Deloitte study of Millennial’s (born between 1981-1996) [viii] found that 51% of the respondents believe their financial situation will be worse than their parents, and they say that pay is their No. 1 criteria for a job. They see rising healthcare costs, high housing prices, and the high cost of food and transportation (and student debt) as expenses growing faster than their income.

The Deloitte study found that 43% of the millennial’s are willing to leave their jobs for better pay, and 62% plan to work a “side-hustle” to make more cash.

Economists emphasize that full employment statistics represent a “range” of possible unemployment rates. For example, in 1999, in the United States, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gives an estimate of the “full-employment unemployment rate” of 4 to 6.4%. [ix]

Economist William T. Dickens found that unemployment rates varied a lot over time but equaled about 5.5 percent of the civilian labor force during the 2000s.[[x]]

Being employed is nice, except wages are barely increasing[[xi]] while the cost of living is now going up by 2-2.5% per year. Inflation[[xii]]is here (we just don’t notice it), and the gap between wages and costs is not closing.

Political actors touting how well the economy is doing need to take a second look and be honest with the public. It is tough out there for all age groups from older Americans trying to stay afloat to those individuals just entering the labor force and college graduates with heavy student load debt.

Having a low-paying and often demeaning job does not provide a quality of life.


[i] Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Family Budget Calculator @

[ii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor “Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey: @

[iii] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, “Current Population Reports, Consumer Income, May 1958.

[iv]   Consumer Income, Series p-60 No. 1956, “Money Income of Households, Families and Persons in the United States: 1985.

[v] Shank, Susan E., Getz, Patricia M., “Employment and unemployment developments in 1985.

[vi] Friedberg, Barbara A., “Are We in a Baby Boomer Retirement Crisis? Sep. 23, 2019.

[vii] Social Security “Fact Sheet,” at:

[viii] The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, at:


[x] “Unemployment Dickens” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-16.



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About Author

Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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