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Friday, July 16, 1999

Unemployment up despite 800 new jobs

By Staff and Wire Reports

PECOS, July 16, 1999 -- The start of harvest season in the Trans-Pecos area meant higher numbers both good and bad for Pecos and Reeves County in the latest Texas Workforce Commission Report.

The TWC released their June unemployment report on Wednesday, and it showed the unemployment rate for the county jumped to 13.7 percent, from 12.9 percent in May.

However, that was due to an increase of nearly 1,000 people in the local labor force, while the start of the local onion harvest and the approaching cantaloupe harvest added almost 800 jobs to the local economy. The TWC said Reeves County had 7,893 people in its labor force in June, with 1,079 unemployed. May's labor force was only 6,931 people with 894 people unemployed.

The 13.7 percent jobless figure is the second highest monthly total this year. Back in January, Reeves County's unemployment rate was 14.3 percent, with 6,178 people in the workforce and 882 without jobs.

Compared to June 1998, unemployment in the county is up from 10.8 percent. TWC said there was an increase of over 200 jobs locally since last year, but that was offset by a jump of almost 500 in the county's workforce.

Pecos' numbers for June were slightly higher. The city's jobless rate last month was 15.5 percent, up from 14.7 percent in May. A total of 5,257 people out of 6,223 in the labor force were employed, compared with 4,658 out of 5,458 in May.

Pecos had 1,350 more people in its labor force in June than in Janaury, when unemployment stood at 16.2 percent, while the number of those employed is up 1,175 since the first month of the year.

The end of the school year also contirbuted to a rise in the labor force, not only locally, but across the Permian Basin, as the regional jobless rate climbed from 9.1 to 10.1 percent.

Ector County's jobless rate went from 11.1 percent in May to 12.4 percent in June, as 1,200 people were added to the county's labor force, while only 200 new jobs were created. Midland County's workforce grew by just over 1,000 while it added only 300 jobs, causing the unemployment rate to rise from 9.4 to 10.2 percent.

Other counties reporting increase of about 1 percent in their unemployment numbers include Andrews County (13.8 percent), Howard County (6.7 percent), Pecos County (10.2 percent), Ward County (12 percent) and Winkler County (14.6 percent).

Neighboring Loving County, with the smallest population in the U.S. added 10 workers but only six jobs to it's labor force, causing a rise from 12.8 to 15.6 percent. Presidio County continued to have the area's highest unemployment rate, at 28.4 percent, but it was unchanged from May and down from 30.7 percent a year ago.

The only other rural county in the Permian Basin to show a similar increase in jobs to Reeves County was Gaines County (Seminole), which added 600 jobs, but saw it's unemployment rate go from 5.9 to 6.4 percent, as 678 new people entered the job market.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in June despite the first decline in employment in nearly seven years, the TWC said Wednesday.

The rate, which is adjusted to account for the large number or students and others entering the job market in the summer, fell 0.2 percent from May.

Nearly 31,000 fewer people were reported out of work in June, the workforce commission said. That decrease in job seekers caused the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to fall even though about 2,000 fewer people were employed than in May.

It was the first decrease in employment since September 1992, the commission said.

Nonagricultural job growth recorded its second-strongest increase this year, with 21,3000 new jobs in June about two-thirds of them in services.

Construction employment gained 500 jobs in June.

Town & Country store plans put on hold

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 16, 1999 -- A new Town and Country Store in Pecos has been put on hold for the time being and the CEO of the stores has retired.

"Right now we've just completed a management buyout," said George Mesestas, with the Midland branch office.

"Also, longtime CEO Steve Stevens has retired," Mesestas said.

"Certain members, about five or six vice presidents, got together and bought the company," he said. The group includes a former Pecosite, Alvin New, who has worked with Town and Country for many years in San Angelo after graduating from Pecos High School.

Stevens was chairman and CEO of Town and Country Food Stores. He was in his mid-20's when he and a partner bought the chain of seven stores in 1965. Today the company has 134 convenience stores and six supermarkets and employs about 1,850 people.

"We're always looking for people to work in our stores," said Mesestas. "We also offer advancements or transfers to our other stores," he said.

Town and County bought land on U.S. 285 near Interstate 20 two years ago, and said they planned to build one of their larger-sized stores at the site.

Last September, the company closed its oldest store in Pecos, at Third and Eddy streets, because it did not own the building and adjacent land. It still operates two stores in Pecos, at 13th and Cedar streets and on I-20 at Country Club Drive.

Caseload boosts federal court staff

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 16, 1999 -- As criminal activity increases in the 10-county Pecos Division, so does the staff in the Lucius D. Bunton III federal court building.

With the recent addition of Jim Brown and Jackie Taylor, the court security force now numbers six. Steve Balog is chief CSO, and other officers are Gary Ingram, J.C. White and Cliff Adkins.

Federal protective services provides another officer to patrol the parking lot and courthouse perimeter.

Down the hall, two young women who worked in the old courthouse on the second floor of the Post Office have returned to the offices of district clerk and U.S. Marshals.

Lisa Lujan and Jamie Weatherman worked part-time in the old building. Lujan resigned to be a full-time mom, and Weatherman sought a full-time job. Since business picked up, they were offered their old jobs back on a full-time basis.

Lujan is administrative support specialist for the Marshals Service, working with Billy Johnson and Steve Clark.

Weatherman handles civil matters and appeals for the clerk's office. Michael Benavides and Johnny Terrazas keep track of paperwork in criminal cases, while deputy district clerk Karen White supervises the office and keeps the courts supplied with jurors.

In other first-floor offices of the courthouse are the public defender, probation and pre-trial services.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Parras and his secretary, Christina Vasquez, are the only staff whose offices are on the second floor near the two courtrooms.

Vasquez moved to the federal building from her previous position as secretary for District Attorney Randy Reynolds.

U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson and Magistrate/Judge Stuart Platt bring their staff from Midland when they hold court in Pecos.

White said that about 200 criminal cases were being indicted each year when she was the only employee in the clerk's office in 1988.

"This year we will probably indict over 600," she said, noting that 325 defendants had been indicted as of July 1.

White has added one staff member for each year the court has been housed in their new quarters at 410 S. Cedar St.

"It is much, much better here," White said. "It is like night and day compared to the old facility."


AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night:

Winning numbers drawn: 17-19-22-26-33. Number matching five of five: 2. Prize per winner: $41,704. Winning tickets sold in: La Porte, West. Matching four of five: 236. Prize: $530.


AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order:

0-0-5 (zero, zero, five)


High Thursday 95; low last night 77. Highs today predicted to be in the 90s across West Texas, except for around 100 along the border.

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Pecos Enterprise
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