Oklahoma Hits 5.5 Percent Unemployment

Friday, March 27th 2009, 4:33 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma posted a 5.5 percent unemployment rate in February, up from this time a year ago, but still lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, according to a report by the U.S. Labor Department released Friday.

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The new figures show that Oklahoma was among 21 states that reported measurably lower unemployment rates compared with the rest of the country.

Michigan had the highest jobless rate at 12 percent, and Wyoming posted the lowest, at 3.9 percent.

In February 2008, the state's unemployment rate was at 3.2 percent, when a robust energy industry helped buoy Oklahoma's economy.

"The main reason Oklahoma fares better was there were high oil prices throughout the year, and Oklahoma is an oil-producing state," said Stacey Standish, a spokeswoman with the department.

In all, 49 states and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rates increase in February from the previous month.

Only Nebraska recorded a drop, declining to 4.2 percent.

Nationally, the jobless rate rose from 7.6 percent in January to 8.1 percent in February, which was 3.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier, according to the department.

Also in February, the department reported that nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia and increased in just one state, Louisiana, according to seasonally adjusted estimates.

The numbers reflect a national recession that is beginning to catch up with the nation's midsection.

Earlier this week, a report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that Oklahoma's personal income grew just 0.1 percent from the third to the fourth quarter of 2008, thanks in part to the energy sector's performance last year.

But even with its 0.1 quarterly growth -- which was enough to rank the state sixth nationally -- the data indicated a slowdown in Oklahoma, which posted growth rates of 1.2 percent, 3.1 percent and 0.5 percent in the first three quarters of last year.