Unemployment Inches Upward in Oklahoma

  • Joe Wertz

Oklahoma’s rate of unemployment increased slightly in July — to 4.9 percent — the first increase in nearly a year.

The 0.2 increase from June is the rate’s first rise since August 2011, but Oklahoma’s unemployment remains well below the national rate of 8.3 percent. State employment officials and economists say Oklahoma’s economy is still strong and stable.

Even with the July dip, Oklahoma’s rate of employment growth over the past year tops 3 percent based on the household survey used to establish the unemployment rate, Lynn Gray, chief economist for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, tells The Oklahoman’s Don Mecoy.

“We have not seen an annual rate of employment growth this strong since 1984,” Gray said.

Employment fell by 1,980 and unemployment increased by 2,860 in July, the OESC reports. Forty-three other states saw joblessness increase in July. Oklahoma added 1,900 jobs in July, but commission surveys show “a pronounced slowing” in job growth over the last three months, Gray tells the paper.

Two major employment sectors — mining (which includes energy) and manufacturing — that had been adding jobs robustly earlier this year slowed dramatically in the past three months, Gray said.

Economist Mickey Hepner, dean of the business school at the University of Central Oklahoma, says the rise in unemployment will be a bigger issue if it’s sustained, but tells The Oklahoman that the survey numbers show a strong Oklahoma economy.