Serving the High Plains

Quay initial unemployment claims jump in first quarter

Quay County saw a huge increase in initial unemployment claims during the January-to-March quarter, a reflection of the beginnings of the COVID-19 outbreak and state-mandated closures of many businesses in response to the outbreak.

A recent report by New Mexico Economic Development Department showed the number of jobless claims in Quay County rose from fewer than 20 during the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 from October to December to more than 100 in the fiscal year’s quarter — an increase of more than 500% — from January to March.

The report stated bigger jobless-claims increases were likely during the next quarter, which would be from April to June. Mandated shutdowns of nonessential businesses began March 24.

“The major uptick in the initial unemployment claims is directly tied to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent closure of ‘non-essential’ businesses,” the report stated. “These businesses tend to be a major component of the workforce. As the stay at home order stays in effect, it is likely that the initial unemployment claims will continue to increase as the economy shifts to handle the unprecedented changes.”

The surge in jobless claims in the county largely matches what happened in the state during the same period. Initial unemployment claims went from under 10,000 in New Mexico during the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 to nearly 80,000 claims during the third quarter.

The report saw only a small decrease in taxable gross receipts in the county during the January to March period, but “it is anticipated that the next quarter will have greater declines.”

The report also broke down the county’s industry size by matched taxable gross receipts. Quay County’s biggest industrial sector was retail trade, which amassed 26% of the tax receipts during the most recent quarter. Construction was second, with 17%. Accommodation and food services were next, at 13%.

Economists Joel Salas and Ryan Eustice used state and federal data to prepare the county and statewide reports.

Cabinet Secretary Alica J. Keys stated in a news release last month the EDD never had compiled such reports at a county level, and “we hope the reports can be used to assist and guide officials as we move to invest in a sustainable recovery.”