ATLANTIC CITY — The “Help Wanted” sign is finally back at the casinos.
The gaming industry went on a hiring binge in May, adding more than 600 jobs to prepare for the normally busy summer tourism season.
May’s hiring surge broke nine straight months of job cuts in Atlantic City’s dominant industry. Casinos had been cutting their work force in response to sharp drops in revenue caused by the recession and intense competition from Pennsylvania’s slot parlors.
Figures released Thursday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission show that the industry added 607 jobs in May compared to April. But casino employment remains significantly lower compared with the same time last year. Overall, 3,600 jobs have been lost in the past 12 months. There are currently 37,841 casino employees, a level not seen since the late 1980s and far off the peak of 51,560 workers in July 1997.
Employment typically increases in May and June as casinos gear up for a jump in tourism starting with the Memorial Day weekend. Seasonal job cuts usually follow in September coinciding with the traditional post-Labor Day slowdown.
One casino executive said May’s employment figures suggest the worst may finally be over for the job market. However, he cautioned it is premature to believe the casinos have begun to rebound from the recession.
“I think in one respect it does signal somewhat of a bottom,” said Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. “At a certain point in time, because of the fixed costs of your buildings, you can’t cut much further. But I wouldn’t say that the industry is in a recovery.”
Casino revenue has plummeted 15.7 percent through the first four months of this year. Revenue figures for May are scheduled to be released Wednesday by the Casino Control Commission. Although employment rose in May, industry officials say revenue is expected to be down for the month.
Eight of the 11 casinos added jobs in May. Bally’s Atlantic City, Showboat Casino Hotel and Tropicana Casino and Resort made only slight cuts, figures show.
Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and Trump Marina Hotel Casino, now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy as they try to restructure their finances, all boosted their work force in May. The Taj Mahal added 133 jobs — more than any other casino in town — mainly to staff a new 40-story hotel tower that opened late last year, Juliano said.
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