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Nevada, Other 'Sand States,' Lead Labor Expansion

States hurt most in the real estate collapse over the past five years - Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida - now lead the U.S. labor market expansion. The four states added 222,100 jobs from August through December, accounting for 28 percent of the

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States hurt most in the real estate collapse over the past five years -- Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida -- now lead the U.Slabor market expansion.The four states added 222,100 jobs from August through December, accounting for 28 percent of the increase in U.Semployment in that period, Labor Department figures showTheir outperformance may continue, say economists at Moody's Analytics Incand IHS Global Insight.Households in the four "sand states," whose homes have lost on average half of their value since the 2006 peak in the housing bubble, are healing after cutting debt and bolstering their net worth, said Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs Group Incin New YorkTheir stabilization may signal a broader improvement by U.Sconsumers that supports faster employment growth."There has been a whole lot of balance sheet improvement," said James Paulsen, who helps oversee more than $330 billion as chief investment strategist in Minneapolis for Wells Capital Management"Even the places that were ground zero for the 2008 financial crisis are coming back to lifeThings are starting to pop a little again."Strip casino gambling revenue rose 3.6 percent in December, bringing the full-year gain to 5.1 percent for a second annual increase as a recovery in the biggest U.Sbetting city strengthened."The bulk of the strength in Nevada has come from leisure and hospitality," Moody's economist Daniel White said"As the national recovery improves, more vacationers are returning and spending money in Vegas."That's helping Heather Parks, who said her information-technology consultancy, Healliam Inc., is having to turn away customers now after weathering a "huge dry spell" last summerMost of her customers are casinos, and her business, which she founded in 2010, has benefited from the trend of outsourcing technology work, she said.Gains in computer systems design, food services and drinking establishments, and manufacturing contributed to a 227,000 increase in U.Spayrolls in February, Labor Department figures showed FridayJob growth over the last six months was the strongest since 2006The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent.The broadening national recovery is helping local industries, including gambling in Nevada, tourism in Florida and Arizona, and social networking in California."The states that were most affected by the bursting of the housing bubble ..have started to do better than the national average," Hatzius said Friday in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack" with Erik Schatzker"There has been a shiftI think it says the balance-sheet damage that was really responsible for the weakness is really beginning to be repaired."While the four states all have higher unemployment than the U.Saverage, they will make quicker progress in reducing it this year, forecasts Moody's Analytics Incin West Chester, PaCalifornia may drop to 9.8 percent from 11.2 percent in December, Florida to 8.9 percent from 9.9 percent, Nevada to 12.5 percent from 13 percent and Arizona to 8.5 percent from 9 percent, Moody's reportsThe national jobless rate is forecast to be 8.2 percent at year's end, Moody's said.Household wealth in the U.Sclimbed from October through December for the first time in three quarters, the Federal Reserve said Thursday Household debt rose at a 0.3 percent annual rate last quarter, the first increase in more than three yearsConsumers' ratio of debt payments to disposable income in the third quarter was the lowest since 1994, a separate Fed report found.Price declines have reduced net worth of homeowners in states where housing boomed from 2002 to 2006The states with the largest average home price declines from their peaks to January 2012 have been Nevada, 60 percent; Arizona, 51 percent; Florida, 49 percent; and California, 44 percent, according to CoreLogic, a provider of real estate information.Although home prices have continued to fall, residential investment, including homebuilding and renovations, contributed to U.Seconomic growth in the fourth quarter, government figures showIt subtracted from growth from 2006 to 2011."Housing is no longer a drag on the economy and is turning into a slight positive," said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, N.CCalifornia is gaining from "the social networking boom and growth in smartphones and tablet PCs," while in Florida, "tourism has been exceptionally strong."Technology companies are scooping up commercial real estate in the Financial District and South of Market areas of San Francisco to accommodate their expanding workforceLinkedIn Corp., the biggest professional-networking website, Inc., the largest maker of online customer-management software and, the retailer's e-commerce division, were among technology companies that leased more than 1 million square feet of office space in the city in January and February, according to a city statement."It is a complete war for talent every single day," Mike Guerchon, senior vice president of global employee services at Riverbed Technology Inc., the San Francisco-based maker of computer-networking products"What our recruiters tell me is that every engineer that we're talking to has three or four other offers from other companies."Death of 'jobs council':...Small business optimism... window._taboola = window._taboola || []; 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