Oklahoma City regained the top spot for having the lowest unemployment rate among large U.S. cities in February, as parts of eastern Oklahoma registered the state's highest rate.
Oklahoma City's jobless rate dipped 0.1 percentage points to 5.8 percent in February, tying with the Washington, D.C., area for the lowest rate among cities with 1 million or more residents, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.
In January, Oklahoma City ranked second to Washington, D.C., and although regularly among the leaders in recent months, has not ranked No. 1 since September.
“It's a reflection of the extraordinary times we're enjoying in Oklahoma City,” Mayor Mick Cornett said. “After a few months of second-place finishes, even if it's only been by tenths of points, it's good to be No. 1 again.”
Oklahoma City added 4,500 jobs from January to February, which included 3,000 jobs in the state government sector.
John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, said the growth in government jobs is a rebound from losses during the recession.
“I'm not sure exactly where those jobs are, but state government took a big hit in the recession, it dropped pretty well over the year,” Carpenter said.
Tulsa, which also saw its jobless rate drop 0.1 percentage points to 6.9 percent, added 4,600 jobs from January to February. The top jobs-producing sectors in Tulsa were government, manufacturing and professional and business services.
The Fort Smith, Ark., metro area, which includes parts of eastern Oklahoma, reported the largest one-year decrease in employment among 267 metro areas, with a loss of 5,800 jobs, the bureau reported.
Sequoyah County, which is part of the greater Fort Smith area, registered the highest unemployment rate among the state's 77 counties at 11.4 percent, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. A year ago, Sequoyah County's jobless rate was 10.7 percent.
That area of eastern Oklahoma typically produces a lot of volatility in employment, Carpenter said.
“It sometimes has to do with the manufacturing in and around the Fort Smith area, where they shut down to retool or do some repairs, and that will be reflected in the county unemployment rate rising and then coming back down. That's normally what we've seen in the past,” Carpenter said. “I don't know exactly whether this movement will meet that pattern.”
About two-thirds of Oklahoma counties registered a drop in the unemployment rate from January to February, while 13 counties saw an increase in unemployment and 13 were steady.
The lowest jobless rates were registered in Roger Mills County, 2.7 percent; Dewey County, 2.8 percent; and Ellis County, 2.8 percent.