As OK Unemployment Rises, Workforce Centers See Funding Cut

Wednesday, June 29th 2016, 10:59 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's unemployment numbers are on the rise. The state's employment security commission released a report Wednesday showing most counties suffered job losses in May compared to a year ago.

The high numbers will affect funding for counties working to get people back on the job.

Joseph Tillman just graduated from Muskogee High School and wants to be a firefighter.

"You know, everybody always needs to have money. You don't want to go broke. I've got bills to pay," he said.

So he needs a job while he trains.

"I was kinda trying to get a job where I could find in between the time so I could work and then go to school at the same time," Tillman said.

Oklahoma Workforce centers help people like Tillman find employment and services.

Muskogee's center falls in a seven-county region supported by federal funding. Because unemployment numbers in those counties remained mostly flat, the regional agency will see a $579,000 funding cut.

Muskogee County Commissioner Ken Doke said, "I would say part of the problem that we're having with our cuts in funding are related to, maybe, other parts of the state with much higher unemployment than we are right now."

Doke said the cuts will force his agency to look at closing workforce centers.

He's most concerned about the cuts affecting programs for adults, youth and laid off workers.

"So, we're trying to create a work pool of skilled labor so that, when employers are looking for work, we can actually put people to work. So this really, almost, becomes a matching agency where you're trying to connect the talent with the people that are needing work to be performed," Doke said.

Tillman knows that means he may have to find work on his own.

"I'm not afraid to go out there and look for a job myself," he said.

Doke said, "These are tough economic times; not just worldwide or nationwide, I mean in Oklahoma, these are particularly difficult times."

The budget cuts won't go into effect until July.