The Oklahoman

Jobless claims decline to lowest level since the pandemic began

But they are still 50% higher than they were this time two years ago

- Curtis Killman

The number of people filing first-time jobless claims last week is the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic, yet it is still 50% higher than the same time two years ago, according to a government report.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 2,253 workers filed initial claims for unemployme­nt compensati­on in Oklahoma during the week ending Saturday.

The number of initial claims filed last week is onethird fewer than the revised number of 3,146 who filed first-time claims the prior week.

This marks the fewest number of initial claims filed since the week ending March 14, 2020, when 1,836 first-time claims were logged.

“I’m thrilled to continue to see unemployme­nt claims decline in Oklahoma, nearing pre-pandemic levels statewide,” said Shelley Zumwalt, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director, in written comments. “Last week, the agency paid out just $5.5 million in state benefits from the (Unemployme­nt Insurance) Trust Fund, which is the lowest weekly payout of UI benefits since February 2020.

“This is great news for our state’s employers and the state workforce as the state’s economy continues to trend in the right direction and people are getting back to work.”

The number of filings for continued claims, or those filed after one week of unemployme­nt, also declined, according to the report.

The DOL said 22,947 continued claims were filed the week ending Saturday, a nearly 20% drop compared to the 27,549 continued claims filed the prior week.

The number of claims, both initial and continued, averaged over a four-week period also showed declining numbers.

The four-week, moving average of initial claims declined from 3,770 the week ending Aug. 14 to 3,626 claims the following week, the ninth consecutiv­e period of declining numbers.

Likewise, the four-week moving average of continued claims declined from 29,173 the week ending Aug. 14 to 27,487 the following week.

Elsewhere, jobless claims in neighborin­g states were a mixed bag last week with Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas posting declining numbers while Colorado and Missouri reporting higher numbers of claims.

In the case of Missouri, initial jobless claims increased nearly 100%, rising from 3,794 the week ending Aug. 21 to 10,631 last week.

Nationwide, initial claims declined by 14,000 to 340,000.

The OESC noted in its written comments that both Oklahoma City and Tulsa reached pre-pandemic unemployme­nt numbers in July, with Oklahoma City’s numbers falling to 2.8% and Tulsa’s falling to 3.1%. In comparison, in July 2019, Oklahoma City’s unemployme­nt rate was 3% and Tulsa’s unemployme­nt rate was 3.2%.

“The drop in unemployme­nt claims in our largest metropolit­an areas is a positive indicator of the state’s progress, and we hope to continue to see progress in the coming months,” said Zumwalt.

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