Oklahoma employment hit an all-time high in February, eclipsing the previous peak number of employed Oklahomans set in March 2008, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Friday.
“We have recovered all of the lost ground,” Commission Chief Economist Lynn Gray said, noting that the previous high was set as the recession took hold in early 2008.
Estimates show more than 1.68 million Oklahomans were employed in February.
Oklahoma's jobless rate dropped to 6 percent in February, a 0.1 percentage point improvement over January's figures, the commission said. Over the previous year, the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also decreased by 0.1 percentage points.
The national unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent for the month.
The biggest annual gains in jobs came in the energy sector, which saw a 17 percent increase by adding 8,200 jobs from February 2011 to February 2012.
Trey Cowan, senior market research analyst of Rigzone.com, said energy is playing a big role in Oklahoma's job market.
“The rig count in Oklahoma is up 10 percent from the end of the year, and energy continues to be a strong contributor to the economy,” Cowan said. “It shouldn't be a surprise that the unemployment rate in Oklahoma is well below the national average at 6 percent and continuing to improve.”
The next biggest driver was manufacturing, which gained 7.1 percent and added 9,000 jobs during the year.
“Those two sectors are really pushing things and that's good because those are typically higher-wage jobs,” Gray said.
Seven of Oklahoma's 11 statewide sectors reported job gains in February, with the biggest one-month gain coming in professional and business services.
“Over the past few months, the number of unemployed has seen a slow decline while employment has increased thus lowering the unemployment rate from 6.3 percent to 6 percent,” Gray said. “I would say this is a good report.”