Oklahoma's unemployment rate rose in October to 5.3 percent even as the number of jobs increased, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Tuesday.
The labor force grew by 8,470 people as the number of unemployed rose by 1,700 people, the commission said. That caused the unemployment rate to rise slightly, up from 5.2 percent in September.
“This is almost certainly people coming back into the labor market because they've heard the economy is improving,” said Lynn Gray, chief economist for the Employment Security Commission.
Oklahoma was among seven states that had higher unemployment rates in October, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Yet Oklahoma's jobless rate was a full percentage point higher, at 6.3 percent, in October 2011.
The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October. North Dakota, which has seen rapid job growth from oil and gas drilling, had the country's lowest jobless rate at 3.1 percent. Nevada had the highest rate at 11.5 percent.
Oklahoma added 1,300 jobs in October. Much of those gains were in trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; and the leisure and hospitality sectors.
Month-to-month declines were posted in the sectors of mining and logging; manufacturing; education and health services; and other services.
The mining and logging sector, which includes most oil and gas jobs, fell by 1,800 jobs for the month. The sector now accounts for 53,900 jobs, or about 3.3 percent of all jobs in Oklahoma.
Gray said the mining sector may be evening out after posting strong gains earlier in the year. He said lower prices for natural gas and decreased production also could be factoring into local employment levels.
Despite the monthly drop, the mining sector grew by 1,400 jobs, or 2.7 percent, since October 2011.
Overall, Oklahoma has added more than 42,200 jobs since October 2011, an increase of 2.7 percent. Manufacturing was among the best-performing sectors, adding 6,600 jobs in the last year to post an increase of 5.1 percent, the commission said. The trade, transportation and utilities sector grew by 4.2 percent and added 11,800 jobs in the last year.