Oklahoma joblessness reaches highest point in 18 months

Thursday, November 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent in October, the highest in the last 18 months.

There were 7,500 more state residents without jobs this month compared to October 2000, according to a report by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The increase in the jobless rate from September to October was 13.3 percent.

The Sept. 11 terror attacks are partly to blame for the unemployment increase, said commission economist Lynn Gray.

Still, the impact of the attacks was not as bad in Oklahoma compared to the rest of the nation, he said.

The nation's unemployment rate rose to 5 percent in October, compared with 3.6 percent for October 2000, according to preliminary labor force statistics.

``Oklahoma tends to be late to the party and late to leave, as well,'' said Robert Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business. ``The fact that Oklahoma is losing jobs does not bode well for the future. We lag the nation, but not by much.''

Oklahoma had 49,200 unemployed residents in January and 63,300 in September.

Job growth in Oklahoma's two largest metro areas has been particularly disappointing, Dauffenbach said.

The state created 13,900 new jobs or .9 percent more than by this time in 2000.

Oklahoma City's unemployment rate, which increased to 3.9 percent from 3.6 percent in September and 2.4 percent in October 2000, was more than the rate increase for Tulsa, Lawton or Enid.

Tulsa figures rose to 3.5 percent from 3.1 percent in September and 2.8 percent in October 2000.

The unemployment rate in Lawton rose to 3.2 percent from 2.8 percent in September and 3.2 percent in October 2000.

Enid's rates remained relatively low, going to 2.7 percent from 2.3 percent in September and 2.6 percent in October 2000.

Gray said the general slowdown has affected manufacturing the most, dropping jobs in that sector by 6,900 or 3.8 percent.

Payne County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, 1.3 percent.

Noble County had the state's highest rate at 7.1 percent, compared with 2.2 percent last year. Perry's biggest employer, Charles Machine Works Inc., better known as Ditch Witch, has laid off 550 workers.