Steve Hansen: Efforts to train workforce necessary

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By Steve Hansen

Former QCS Managing Editor

Quay County’s unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for August 2015, compared to New Mexico’s rate of 6.7 percent, is within the 6 percent to 8 percent range that both state and county have reported lately. But a little digging shows Quay County’s employment picture is far more worrisome.

The unemployment number the state reports every month shows how much of the workforce is unemployed.  The workforce is everybody who’s got a job or is looking for one.  Unemployment measures that include working-age people neither working nor seeking work are much harder to find, especially at the county level.

At least, I couldn’t find them, so I decided to combine U.S. Census data and state measures to derive an idea of Quay County’s job picture.

Since I compared current workforce numbers from DWS to 2014 U.S. Census population estimates, my percentages are likely smaller than they really are, if Quay County population continues to decline.

Quay’s workforce, according to DWS, stood at 3,449 in August.  That represents about 40 percent of the county’s 2014 population of 8,501, according to the Census. Statewide, 59 percent of the population is in the workforce.

More significant, the county’s workforce total represents about 47 percent of the county’s population over age 16.  Excluding the population over 65 years old, the workforce represents about 65 percent of the county’s population between 16 and 65 years of age.

The implication is that up to 35 percent of the county’s working-age population, more than one in three, is not in the workforce.

Census numbers show from 2009 to 2013, 17.8 percent of Quay’s population under 65, nearly one in five, had a disability. This compares with 9.7 percent for New Mexico and 8.4 percent for the U.S.  In the county, that’s equal to half of the working-age population not in the workforce.

There are efforts under way to learn what skills are available in Quay County and compare these to the skills needed by potential employers.  These efforts go hand-in-hand with other efforts aimed at determining, then improving the level of workforce skills among county residents.

From all indications, the sooner the county can get started on these efforts, the better.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:
stevenmhansen@plateautel.net

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