OESC Reports Glimpse Of Hope As Many Oklahomans Still Feel Pandemic’s Economic Impact

Friday, March 5th 2021, 4:54 pm

Oklahomans are still feeling the economic impact of the pandemic, but there is a glimpse of hope, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

OESC reports a continued drop in unemployment claims and said it has paid out more unemployment in this past year than in the previous decade combined.

One Claremore resident said her husband just wants a job. OESC said the state’s unemployment rate is currently below 4% putting the state at 11th in the nation. 

Shirley Burrill said her 65-year-old husband Curt is on the wrong side of that statistic.

"Feels wrong that he did work his whole life, same kind of job his whole life, and now we're just stuck," Burrill said. 

Burrill said Curt has applied for many jobs after being laid off last year but runs into the same issue each time. 

"I understand it from a business point of view that if you can hire somebody fresh out of college and pay them their starting entry level wage, that's much more attractive to an employer than paying a man who's worked for 35 years," Burrill said. 

She told News On 6 they cashed out his 401(k) and are now draining their hard earned retirement fund. Burrill said she can't work because providing for her special needs grandson is a full time job.

"Cameron won't likely won't have a very long life and so we just we feel like well, we're going to do what we can for now and then if we work until the Lord calls us home, well then that's what we'll do," Burrill said. 

OESC has paid out $4.4 billion in unemployment between March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021. To put that in perspective, in 2019 the agency paid out just over $200 million. Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said this is a testament to hard work and will power.

"Showing the resiliency of the agency and being able to continue to make improvements and make changes so that we can better serve people," Zumwalt said. 

Burrill said she doesn't know what the future holds but has faith they will make it through these trying times. 

"We know we'll be taken care of," said Burrill. "We just don't know how."