By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The economy is taking a tough toll on the state's unemployment rates, but the negative news is also proving to be a silver lining for some who are looking for work.
Business couldn't be slower at the new Par Par Mexican Restaurant on S May Avenue, and owner Saman Saleki blames it on the economy.
He said more people are eating-in to save money. As a result, he's had to lay off half the staff he started with just three months ago.
"I held on to them as long as I could, but I couldn't provide them enough hours, so they had to leave," the restaurant owner said.
The number of those who've lost their jobs in Oklahoma has increased every month from September to November last year.
"What we've started to see is an increase in unemployment insurance claims, a significant increase," said Lynn Gray with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
So much so, the agency that handles unemployment has hired almost two dozen more people to take on the extra workload.
"They've been very busy in trying to serve the public in these very trying times," Gray said.
Those new workers will help the state dish out more than $8 million in jobless benefit claims by the end of this week. That's a record-breaking number for Oklahoma and an unfortunate indication of things to come in 2009.
"Those increasing quite a bit certainly makes one think the unemployment rate will probably go up again," Gray said.
Gray went on to say if things continue like they are, he expects Oklahoma's unemployment rate to top off at around 7.2 percent. The current unemployment rate for the U.S. is currently at 6.7 percent. An estimated 80,000 Oklahomans are currently unemployed.