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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

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Friday, October 18, 2002

Unemployment kept high due to workforce jump

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002 -- Reeves County and the Town of Pecos City's unemployment  rates remain nearly three times above their level of a year ago, according  to figures for September released Thursday by the Texas  Workforce Commission.

But while the sharp jump continues a trend that began following May's closing of the Anchor Foods plant in Pecos, the increase is based mainly on a 15 percent rise in the number of workers in the county compared to September of a year ago.

TransPecos Foods officially reopened the plant last month, after agreeing to purchase it from McCain Foods in June. Operations resumed in September, but the number of employees is still well below the 700 that worked at the facility when McCain bought Anchor Foods in September of 2001.

However, based on the figures released by the TWC, Reeves County has only 59 fewer jobs compared to the same point last year, and has gained 52 jobs over August's numbers. But the local workforce last month stood at 7,908 workers, which is up 1,016 from September of 2001, and that increase caused unemployment in Reeves County to soar from 5.2 percent to 18.1 percent in the past year.

Unemployment in the county is actually down from its peak in August, when the TWC reported 19.9 percent of the county's workforce was without jobs. The labor force a month ago stood at 8,015 workers, with 6,423 employed. In September, 6,475 people in the county had jobs, according to today's report.

The 15 percent increase in the county's labor force comes at the same time as Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD schools are reporting a drop in enrollment of about eight percent compared to the same time last year. School officials said last week that the district has 200 fewer students than last year.

In referring to the 7,908 workers, Employee Service Representative of the Texas Work Force in Pecos Ascencio Banuelas said, "That is how many people are available for work,"

According to Banuelas the unemployment rate jumped by 10 percent when Anchor closed its doors earlier this year.

Though TransPecos Foods has bought the building and has started to create a new line of produce Banuelas said that the business would not be employing the large number of employees as Anchor did.

"Though they are hiring in increments, their will hire a full force of about 300 people," Banuelas said.

Though Banuelas has talked to local employers he said that he has found that placing people is very slim.

The 7,908 workers in the local labor force for September is not unusually high for Reeves County compared to recent years. The TWC website showed that the county had 7,884 workers in September of 1998, when the jobless rate was 12.1 percent, while in 1999, the county had a labor force of 8,149 workers, of which 7,325 had jobs, which is 900 more jobs than last month, according to the agency's figures.

The jobless rate at that time was 10.1 percent, but dropped over the next year, as an increase in oil and gas drilling activity in the Permian Basin helped lower unemployment rates.

The Town of Pecos City's numbers are roughly the same as Reeves County's totals. City unemployment was 20.4 percent last month, down from 22.3 percent in August but up from 6.0 percent a year ago. The total number of jobs in the city is only down 45 from September 2001, but the number of people in the city's workforce has grown by 917 in the past year, according to the TWC.

Reeves County's neighbors also had jobless rates above the regional and state averages. Winkler County (Kermit); had an 11.4 percent unemployment rate last month, down from 11.8 percent in August but sharply up from the 4.9 percent rate a year ago. An increase in the county's workforce by 240 people offset a slight rise in the number of jobs over the past year.

Ward County's rate this month was 9.5 percent up one-tenth of a percent from August and up from 6.4 percent last year. The TWC said the county lost about 50 people from its labor force in the past year but also saw over 150 jobs disappear. Pecos County's total number of jobs remained stable, but the labor force declined slightly, lowering its unemployment from 7.4 percent in August to 7.0 percent in September. The county's jobless rate was 4.6 percent a year ago, when there were 85 additional jobs.

Unemployment in the Midland-Odessa area held stable at 6.1 percent in September, while statewide, the jobless rate was down from 6.3 percent in August to 6.2 percent last month. The Midland-Odessa unemployment rate was 4.1 percent a year ago, and Texas' jobless rate at that time was 5.2 percent.

About 10 million Texans were working in September, with 662,400 unemployed, the commission said.

Following are the September unemployment rates for Texas metropolitan areas, with August rates in parentheses. The local figures were not seasonally adjusted.

Abilene 4.2 (4.4); Amarillo 3.8 (3.8); Austin-San Marcos 5.5 (5.6); Beaumont-Port Arthur 8.2 (8.6); Brazoria 7.6 (7.9); Brownsville-Harlingen 10.4 (10.8); Bryan-College Station 1.8 (2.1); Corpus Christi 6.2 (6.4); Dallas 6.9 (7.0);

El Paso 8.3 (8.5); Fort Worth-Arlington 5.9 (6.0); Galveston-Texas City 7.7 (8.1); Houston 5.9 (6.0); Killeen-Temple 5.0 (5.1); Laredo 6.7 (6.7); Longview-Marshall 6.7 (6.8); Lubbock 2.8 (3.2); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 12.6 (12.8);

Odessa-Midland 6.1 (6.1); San Angelo 3.8 (3.8); San Antonio 5.1 (5.3); Sherman-Denison 6.5 (6.8); Texarkana 5.0 (5.2); Tyler 4.4 (4.5); Victoria 5.3 (5.4); Waco 4.4 (4.9); Wichita Falls 5.9 (5.5).

Indictments include  theft, drug and assault incidents

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002 -- The Reeves County Grand Jury 143rd Judicial District returned several indictments during August and September, including several for assault, theft and possession of a controlled substance.

Grand jurors met on Aug. 22 and returned indictments on:

Billy Ray Box, 67, was indicted for aggravated assault. The indictment stated that on May 30, Box did intentionally threaten Donald William Shield with imminent bodily injury and did exhibit a deadly weapon.

Other indictments include: Ricardo Barrera for criminal non-support; Jaime Ortiz Natividad, unauthorized use of a vehicle; Camillo Salcido, assault; Jesus Levario Gochicoa, possession of a controlled substance; Jose Luis Garcia, possession of a controlled substance; Efrin Rodriguez, possession of a controlled substance; Myron Nigiel Jenkins, theft; Guillermo Rayos, possession of a controlled substance; Gilberto Rayos Ortega, possession of a controlled substance; Wilhelm Newstater Neufeld, possession of marijuana; Rodolfo Carrasco Renteria, drug possession and Frank Matta Rivera, burglary.

On Sept. 11, grand jurors returned indictments on: Juan Manuel Aguilar, assault; Kacye Lynn Jordan, arson; Sonia Rodriguez, forgery; Fabian Orona, assault and Patricia Soto, delivery of a controlled substance.

Fire department holds terrorism response course

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002 -- The Pecos Volunteer Fire Department and Dallas Renfrew will be holding an Emergency Response to Terrorism course beginning Monday, October 21 through Thursday, October 24.

The classes will be held at the Reeves County Civic Center from 6 p.m. till 10 p.m.

The registration fee is free and applications may be pick up by contacting Noel Ybarra or Javier Contreras at the Pecos Volunteer Fire Hall.

Early voting opens Saturday for November election

From Staff and Wire Reports
With the candidates for governor, U.S. Senate and other state offices  still on the campaign trail, some Texas voters are getting an early start  casting their ballots.

Early voting for the Nov. 5 general election began Saturday in some Texas counties and will open in every county by Monday. In Reeves County, early voting will begin Saturday in the first floor lobby of the Reeves County Courthouse. Voting booths will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and will continue Monday through Saturday at those times until Nov. 2. Voters in Barstow can cast their ballots early for the next two weeks between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Ward County Courthouse in Monahans.

"I have always opened on a Saturday," said Beverly Kaufman, county clerk for Harris County, the state's most populous county with 1.9 million registered voters. "In an urban community like this, people need the weekends."

Unofficial voter figures from the secretary of state's office show slightly more than 12.8 million registered voters in Texas, about 450,000 more than the 2000 presidential election.

Ann McGeehan, director of elections, wouldn't give a precise prediction on turnout but said she expects it will fall between the 32.5 percent for the 1998 election, when then-Gov. George W. Bush was elected to second term, and the approximate 50 percent turnout in 2000.

"I think (1998) was especially low because it was not a real competitive (governor's) race," McGeehan said. "I would think we would beat that."

This year's ballot features several hotly contested races, with Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Ron Kirk squaring off in the campaign for U.S. Senate and Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Tony Sanchez locked in a vitriolic challenge for the governor's office.

Perry and Sanchez have scheduled Saturday appearances to encourage early voting.

Kaufman, however, predicted the caustic campaigns will drive some voters away, which means low turnout.

"This is not going to a high-turnout election," Kaufman said. "There's been so much negative campaigning. I'm afraid it's going to be a turnoff rather than a turn-on."

Schools hold events as part of "Red Ribbon Week"

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD schools will be holding "Red Ribbon Week" next Monday through Friday, which will conclude with an anti-drug rally for district students at Eagle Stadium.

The rally, which has been held each October for the past several years, will be from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 25 at Eagle Stadium. Students from the P-B-T campuses will be bussed to the stadium for the rally, which is sponsored by the P-B-T ISD guidance counselors with the assistance of the Pecos High School Student Council, PHS cheerleaders, district administrators and teachers and local law enforcement agencies.

Other events for students as part of Red Ribbon Week include:

Monday _ United We Stand for a Drug-Free Land (wear red, white and blue)

Tuesday _ We're a Team and Can Say `No' to Drugs (students should wear their jerseys and bring a canned good to school)

Wednesday _ Follow Your Dreams; Don't Do Drugs (wear pajamas)

Thursday _ Put a Cap on Drugs (wear a cap)

Friday _ Put a Stop to Drugs (wear red).

All schools will also be decorating with red to support the fight against drugs, and a drawing will be held at each campus for students who have perfect attendance.


PECOS, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002 -- High Thurs. 71. Low this morning 58. Rainfall last 24 hours at  Texas A&M Experiment Station .18 inch. Forecast for tonight: Mostly  cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows 50 to  55. SW winds 10 to 20 mph. Sat,: Partly cloudy. Highs around 70. West  winds 5 to 15 mph, becoming north 10 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Sat,  night: Partly cloudy. Lows 45 to 50. Sun,: Increasing clouds. Highs around  70. Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows 45 to 50. Highs around 75.


Jim Tom Kelton and Maria Miramontes

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