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State unemployment rate down in July

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level in almost two years last month and the state gained 12,000 jobs to reach the highest employment numbers recorded in the state since 1978, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday.

The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July stood at 4.4 percent, a decline of six-tenths of a percent from the previous month, the OESC said. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped 1.5 percent from the 5.9 percent recorded in July 2003.

``The July data shows a state labor market that has strengthened over the past year,'' said Lynn Gray, managing economist for the OESC.

Employment gains have occurred in every sector of the state's economy except manufacturing, which saw no gain, and in every area except Enid, Gray said.

Tulsa, which lost 25,000 jobs in 2002 and 2003, has gained 3,500 jobs over the past year, according to the OESC. July was Tulsa's second straight month of annual gains.

Non-seasonally adjusted total employment increased by seven-tenths of a percent in July to more than 1.65 million, the highest level since 1978. Total employment has increased each month this year and nearly 70,000 jobs have been created since January, the OESC said.

Over the past year, total employment has increased by 2.3 percent.

A total of 76,300 people were unemployed in the state in July, the lowest point since October 2002. Since July 2003, unemployment has decreased by 25,500 workers.

Oklahoma's unemployment rate in July was lower than the nation's overall rate of 5.7 percent and lower than every other state in the region, the OESC reported. The unemployment rate in Texas last month was 6.2 percent, 6.1 percent in Arkansas and 4.6 percent in Kansas.

In Oklahoma, Coal County had the highest unemployment rate at 15.1 percent. Cimarron County had the lowest with 1.1 percent.
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