Oklahoma jobless rate rises in December

Friday, January 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's unemployment rate jumped last month to 4.3 percent but still remained below the national average, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Commission economist Lynn Gray said the state's jobless rate rose ``a substantial amount'' last month. The unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent in November, according to the OESC.

The increase of four-tenths of a point ``is an ugly number. There's no way around it,'' Gray said. It is also the state's fourth consecutive month of increase and the largest November-December rise since 1982.

``But I'm cautiously optimistic that we're nearing the end of the economic cycle ... and things will turn around,'' she said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate in December rose only one-tenth of a percent, from 5.3 percent to 5.4 percent.

In December 2000, the state's unemployment rate was 2.6 percent, down from 2.8 percent in November that year. Nationally, the rate changed from 3.8 percent to 3.7 percent during the same period.

Of Oklahoma's labor force of 1.68 million, 72,900 people were unemployed in December 2001, the commission reported.

In the state's largest metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City led with the highest unemployment rate and the largest rate change, figures show. Oklahoma City's rate rose from 3.8 percent in November to 4.3 percent in December.

Tulsa saw a rise from 3.7 percent to 4 percent, while Lawton registered a rise from 3.3 percent to 3.7 percent and Enid rose from 2.8 percent to 3 percent.

Alfalfa County's unemployment rate, at 1.4 percent, was the lowest among the state's 77 counties. Choctaw County's rate was the highest in the state at 9.2 percent.

Gray said unemployment figures are a lagging indicator of the strength of the economy.

``So when the economy slows down, it's a while before you start to see the same thing in your labor markets,'' she said. ``And usually after you see the economy turn the corner, you still see several more months of ugly employment news.''

Gray said that if the economy turns around by the second quarter as many economists predict, unemployment rates will probably peak this summer.