Oklahoma City wins in jobless figures

Labor Department Reports 5.9 Percent Unemployment Rate for July

Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 7:00 am By: Debbie Blossom Source: The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City's 5.9 percent jobless rate for July remains the best in the country from a list of 372 metro areas with a population greater than 1 million, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

That's recognition the city has earned in four previous months this year, as well as August, September, November and December of last year. The metro area also posted the second-lowest rate once in 2008 and three times this year.

In the latest federal and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission preliminary data released Tuesday, Tulsa's nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.8 percent was unchanged from June, while Lawton posted a 5.3 percent rate, down from 5.6 percent the previous month.

Oklahoma's unemployment rate was estimated at 6.4 percent for all civilian workers, including farm and ranch employees, compared with 6.6 percent in June, the Labor Department said.

In the metro area, there were 7,100 total nonfarm job losses for the month, the commission said. There were 6,500 fewer jobs in the service industry, with retail trades and food services each cutting 1,000 positions. The government sector posted a 5,400-job loss.

Nonfarm employment was down by 3,500 jobs over the month in the Tulsa area, with service industries shedding the most positions with 3,200, followed by 2,500 less jobs in government.

Less jobs at the state government level in Oklahoma City and Tulsa is mostly seasonal losses, from school positions lost during summer months, said commission economist Lynn Gray. But fewer jobs in food services and at drinking places in the metro area "is more the economy," he said.

The Lawton area posted 600 lost jobs for the month.

The Labor Department estimated the number of unemployed in Oklahoma fell by 4,000 in July.

"Employment and unemployment rates in the state seem to have stabilized over the last three months, after rates began escalating steadily from around 4 percent before the recession began almost two years ago," Oklahoma Bankers Association economist Keith Hazelton said.

"Rebounding crude oil prices, which have been on a roller coaster for more than a year, may be leading to increasing employment in the state's energy sector, although jobs gained in the oil industry likely are being offset partially by job losses in natural gas as prices briefly reached seven-year lows last month."

Beaver and Grant counties have the lowest unemployment at 4 percent, followed by Harper, Murray, Roger Mills and Texas counties with 4.1 percent.

McCurtain County had the highest at 11.5 percent.

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