Oklahoma's relatively strong economy is limiting the ability of jobless Oklahomans to get long-term unemployment benefits.
Benefits extended by Congress and the president in the wake of growing unemployment in a recession that began in 2008 are becoming more difficult to obtain as unemployment rates fall below 6 percent in some states, including Oklahoma.
Oklahoma's unemployment rate was 5 percent in April, down from 5.4 percent in March. The U.S. jobless rate was 8.1 percent in April.
Unemployment claimants are eligible for up to 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. When those benefits are exhausted, claimants can receive the extended benefits, called emergency unemployment compensation, for up to 20 weeks and a second round of extended benefits for up to an additional 14 weeks.
A third tier provided up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. However, that no longer is available to Oklahomans because the state's three-month average unemployment rate fell below 6 percent, the employment security commission said.
Now, the state's relatively low jobless rate also threatens the second round of extended benefits, said John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.