Tulsa's job market continues to grow

Thursday, April 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Despite which way American Airlines heads, bankruptcy or downsizing, the airline planned to lay off workers. The News on 6 has now learned that just over 700 Tulsa workers will lose their jobs; about 500 of those are mechanics.

American Airlines will start notifying workers next Wednesday. That will add more people to the Tulsa job market, which already has the state's highest unemployment rate. Companies like American Airlines, Williams Communications and WorldCom led Tulsa out of the oil bust of the 1980s. But as News on 6 anchor Tami Marler learned, they now lead the state in a way no one had planned.

American, Williams and WorldCom had Tulsa poised to be the nation's 'technology hub.' Thousands of workers know, that’s now changed. About 200 applicants a week walk in to Premier Staffing, looking for jobs in a struggling market.

Tulsa's unemployment rate is it’s highest in ten years, higher than any other community in the state. “This industry is very very slow. When you have large employers like Williams, MCI WorldCom, American Airlines and such, when they lay off a large number of individuals, Tulsa is a size where there's not a lot of super large employers like you would find in the Dallas or Kansas City area." Leigh Sandidge says laided-off workers are learning the hard facts about what's out there, and what's not. "We start with being just really honest with them and telling them exactly what the marketplace is like. The last thing we want to do when someone walks through our door is to let them walk out the door with an unrealistic picture."

It's a reality thousands of area workers are learning firsthand. The industries that once gave Tulsa a bright financial outlook are the very industries now laying off, and there's no demand for those displaced workers. “The market is just real real lean and tough right now.” Harriett Garrison says in 23 years helping people find jobs, she's never seen the market in such dire straits, including the 1980s oil and gas crash.

Many have been forced to start again. "They've maybe been in one particular job for 10 to 15 years, of course they were receiving very excellent pay, but they have very willing attitudes to start over in the job market."

If there is a bright side to the jobless picture, Sandidge says as the war winds down, employers in the last week appear more willing to hire new workers.