Oklahoma’s jobless rate inched down to 7.0 percent in November after hitting a two-decade high of 7.1 percent in October. But the slightest of declines is noticeably higher than a year ago, when unemployment was only 4.4 percent. Seasonally adjusted state and regional unemployment numbers released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department showed more states lost jobs than added them in November, an indication that hiring is occurring only in pockets across the nation. Oklahoma shed 6,000 jobs in November, with almost 50,000 jobs lost since the same time last year, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported. The biggest slump continued in manufacturing, which lost 1,500 jobs last month, followed by 1,100 positions in professional and business services and 1,000 construction jobs.
No longer countedUnemployment rates dropped in 36 states and the District of Columbia, the report said, but that trend appeared to reflect more people leaving the work force. Unemployed people who stop looking for jobs aren’t counted in the labor force. The number of people jobless for at least six months rose last month to 5.9 million, according to a separate report released earlier this month. The average length of unemployment exceeds 28 weeks, the longest on records dating to 1948. For Oklahoma City restaurateur Greg Gawey, the recession’s impact became very apparent this week. The owner of Jamil’s Steakhouse was astonished when more than 60 people applied for a part-time, $8-an-hour dishwashing position posted in a tiny, two-line newspaper ad. Many were waiting in line outside the restaurant when he arrived for work Monday morning. "I have never seen anything like this,” said Gawey, who rarely has to search for workers because his turnover is low. "It kind of broke my heart.” Most of the applicants had other jobs but are unable to work full time, he said. Some were students, and others had worked in catering and restaurants, nursing homes, plumbing and construction. Overwhelmed with the response, Gawey said he hired two part-time dishwashers instead of just one. And despite what the unemployment numbers say, "we don’t really know the magnitude of the situation,” he said.
19 states add jobsIn all, just 19 states added jobs in November, down from 28 in October, the labor department said. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia suffered a net loss of jobs. Economists say October’s gains were driven by a rise in temporary employment, which often is a sign more permanent hiring is on the horizon. And that’s exactly what staffing professional David Lewis says is happening in Oklahoma City. The metro area manager for Express Staffing Professionals said a big uptick in contract hiring in the metro and Tulsa areas, including a 40 percent increase at Express, "tells us hiring will be strong in the first and second quarter.” Contributing: The Associated Press