Oklahoma Unemployment Numbers Highest in Years

Friday, December 5th 2008, 7:16 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Unemployment numbers are just another sign of grim economic times, as a recent report shows the national unemployment rate is now 6.7 percent.

Explore the latest on the job market with the CBS News Interactive "On The Job."

According to The Labor Department, employers slashed 533,000 jobs last month. That's the highest cut in the past 34 years. The most recent numbers look pretty bad in Oklahoma too. We've seen a nearly 50 percent increase in unemployment claims, compared to last year. All over the metro, people are struggling with this reality.

With her three kids by her side, Amanda Lawson applies for unemployment.

"It might be a little bit, but it will help," Lawson said.

Just Thursday, Lawson lost her job as a dental assistant.

"I'm scared, can't afford Christmas and house payments, car payments and everything's going up," Lawson said.

Workforce Oklahoma is full of people, just like Lawson, searching for a new beginning.

"I went home and collected my unemployment," Michael Stevenson said. "I didn't expect to be home this long, though."

Stevenson has been out of a job for seven months. He's going back to school and hoping for an unemployment benefits extension. In the meantime, he worries about his daughter.

"She is 17, she'll be starting college next year, that's why I'm struggling to get things going, so I make sure she has enough money for college so she doesn't have to take out loans," Stevenson said.

These families are not alone and there are more of them.

The most recent numbers for October show the state dished out about 74,000 unemployment benefit payments. That's nearly 60 percent more than October of last year.

"Since the first of the year, the load on our unemployment insurance servicing has increased every month," Jerry Pectol with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said.

For many of the real people who are the faces behind the unemployment numbers just want jobs.

"I want to stop worrying how they're going to eat, clothes, keep a house; I just want help," Lawson said.

We'll learn more about this situation in about two weeks, that's when our state unemployment numbers for last month will come out.

The Federal Government has extended unemployment benefits because of the economy. Between the Feds and the State, the maximum someone can get now is 46 weeks.