US unemployment statistics climbed to a 15 year high in November, with the travel and entertainment sectors taking a major beating due to lay-offs, Associated Press reported this week.
Workers at hotels and casino resorts have taken some of the biggest losses, with the accommodation industry shedding 36 600 jobs in November, while the amusements, gambling and recreation sector laid off 13 100 workers, the Department of Labour reported, part of the 533 000 total jobs cut in November that pushed the U.S. unemployment rate to a depressing 6.7 percent.
The travel and gambling sectors have been particularly hard hit by the recession, as consumers have cut back sharply on discretionary spending.
Some of the most visible layoffs have come from the casino industry, where large land gambling complexes have cut jobs on a big scale. In early November, the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City laid off 400 workers to cope with the economic downturn. Later in the month, the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michegan cut 100 employees. Also last month, the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia cut 93 jobs, mainly maintenance workers and carpenters.
In some communities, casinos are a major employer. "These complexes employ thousands and thousands of workers," American Gaming Association President and Chief Executive Frank J. Fahrenkopf told the Associated Press reporter. "And those thousands of workers buy cars, buy washing machines. So it's a major negative impact on the communities where we do business when we have to cut back."
The bad news seems set to continue into December, AP speculates, citing plans this week by Black Gaming to suspend casino operations at the Oasis Resort Casino Golf & Spa in Mesquite, Nevada, and lay off 500 workers. Seneca Indian Nation's casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca also cut more than 200 jobs this week.
Overall gaming revenue dropped 4.6 percent nationwide in the third quarter. And the fourth quarter has been particularly difficult for the hotel industry, as consumers and businesses have cut back even more sharply on travel spending. During October, occupancy for the U.S. hotel industry dropped 6.5 percent compared to the same month a year earlier. Last Friday, Fitch Ratings lowered its outlook on three major hotel companies, saying the fourth-quarter declines have dimmed its forecast for the sector.