County unemployment rate above national, state averages

Thomas Garcia

The unemployment rate in Quay County is above the state and national average, according to data from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

Data collected by Workforce Solutions in February shows Quay County’s unemployment was 10.4 percent. The national average is 9 percent the state average is 8.7 percent.

The civilian workforce in Quay County is 3,991 with 3,575 employed and 416 receiving unemployment.

“Currently we are working to bring more employment opportunities to our area,” said Patrick Vanderpool, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation.

Vanderpool said the EDC is working on picking up the slack left by recent business closures to provide opportunities for those who want to work.

There are plenty of notices for employment at local fuel stations, groceries stores and fast food restaurants. However, many corporate, office and professional positions are harder to find.

Tami Simpson, a Tucumcari resident, was employed as the office manager at Bernard Fitzner’s dental office before its closure in October 2010.

“For an office-based job in Tucumcari you have to wait for someone to retire or move in order for them to become available,” Simpson said.

Simpson said when the dentist’s office closed, she applied for unemployment benefits. She said it was a process which was long and troublesome.

“They say it can take six to eight weeks to receive benefits,” Simpson said. “My co-worker received hers within two weeks. I was not so lucky.”

Simpson said she filled out the application on Oct. 14, 2010. She said she received a letter in the first week informing her on the base rate of unemployment.

“Nine weeks had passed and I still had not received any benefits,” Simpson said. “When I called their hotline I was on hold for no less than 2 hours. They open their phone lines at 8 a.m., and I called first thing and was told that my claim was pending.”

Simpson said she was on hold for 12 hours and had a $40 phone bill. She said after nine weeks she received her first unemployment check.

“At times you don’t want to talk to people about a job because of how hard it was to get the unemployment benefits,” Simpson said.

Simpson said she has found local entry-level positions available. She said she would not be able to work full time at a business or restaurant where she would have to be on her feet for extended periods of time.

“If that job does not pan out, then you are back to square one. I certainly could not go that long without a paycheck again.” Simpson said. “After the first go around with the unemployment office I’m not to thrilled on doing that again.”

Simpson said for her and several other older people on unemployment, the possibility of a new race track coming to town is a welcome one.

“It would not only create new jobs. It would increase the business at existing business as well,” Simpson said.