The number of Oklahoma residents without jobs remains among the lowest in the nation, state employment figures released Friday show.
Oklahoma's unemployment rate remained steady at 5 percent in March, but the state shed 1,600 nonfarm jobs during the month, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
“It's good that we're down at 5 percent,” agency spokesman John Carpenter said.
Oklahoma's jobless rate remains well below the national level, which dipped to 7.6 percent as more Americans ended their job searches.
Carpenter said the state's unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since October 2008.
“Basically since the recession hit Oklahoma, this is the lowest that we've seen the unemployment rate,” he said. “Even though this is kind of a mixed result, we're headed in the right direction.”
Unemployment rates fell in more than half the U.S. states in March even though job growth slowed. Rates fell largely because many of those out of work stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.
Unemployment rates fell in 26 states, rose in seven and were unchanged in 17.
Only 23 states reported a net gain in hiring in March, the fewest since August 2011. Employers cut jobs in 26 states, and New Mexico reported little change. That was much worse than in February, when 42 states reported job gains.
Nationwide, hiring slowed sharply in March. Employers added only 88,000 jobs, down from an average of 220,000 from November through February.
Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate last month, at 9.7 percent. It was followed by Illinois at 9.5 percent and California and Mississippi, both at 9.4 percent. North Carolina had the fifth-highest rate, at 9.2 percent.
Rhode Island's rate has fallen from 10.6 percent to 9.1 percent in the past year. Florida's has dropped from 8.9 percent to 7.5 percent and Michigan's from 9 percent to 8.5 percent.
All those states have added jobs, although in Rhode Island the gain was only 700. But rates have also fallen because fewer people are looking for jobs. When people without jobs stop actively looking for work, the government no longer counts them as unemployed.
The Associated Press
Basically since the recession hit Oklahoma, this is the lowest that we've seen the unemployment rate. Even though this is kind of a mixed result, we're headed in the right direction.”
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission spokesman