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Recalling the history of labor force in Las Vegas

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Updated: 9/02 6:24 am

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Labor Day was first celebrated in Las Vegas in 1905 which has a long history of job creation and provision.

On Labor Day this year, the Goodwill on Rainbow is a madhouse of activity. Employee Candace Psomas enjoys working full-time.

"To be a productive member of society is really nice," Psomas said.

Since Nevada's economic downturn a few years ago, it has not been easy for Psomas who is raising three small children. "In November, I had put over 200 applications and resumes online, and nothing, nothing, nothing. I went to several interviews and nothing. I hadn't worked for three years," Psomas said.

But she's working now, and in Southern Nevada there is a long history of labor forces impacting the economy and growth here.

Mark Hall-Patton with the Clark County Museum says the railroad sparked jobs in Nevada, prompting the first Labor Day celebration in the state in 1905. "The reason it stopped here, was because we had water and the railroad needed water and this was the only valley anywhere in this area that had a high water table," Patton said.

Years later, the Hoover Dam project provided a lot of work. "When you build Hoover Dam you have a whole lot of money coming in here, and Las Vegas could survive the removal of some of the rail yards and the railroad jobs," Patton said.

World War II two brought an army air base and a large magnesium plant in what is now Henderson. The company supplied the war department with magnesium for munitions and airplane parts.

The post-war era created an opportunity for gaming, and advertised Las Vegas as a tourist destination. That continued to evolve into growth and corporate ownership. "You've got 4-1/2 miles of The Strip which has casinos and hotels that have between 3,000 and 5,000 rooms; and that's just an amazing thing when you think about where we’re at," Hall said.

As the valley has prospered and plummeted, people like Candace Psomas have managed to stay afloat in trying times.

Whether retail, hospitality or other industry in Nevada, experts say we're still in a recovery mode, but the local economy is picking up.

Our local culinary union says its housekeepers clean 44 million hotel rooms a year, and its union bartenders make 441-million drinks a year.

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