Workforce Dropout, Return To Work Drops Oklahoma's Unemployment To Among Lowest In The Nation

Monday, July 20th 2020, 5:39 pm

Following historic unemployment numbers and thousands of Oklahomans still out of work, new data shows Oklahoma has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said the numbers show the state is leading the way in COVID-19 recovery. However, a closer look reveals more people gave up looking for work in June than returned to the workforce.

"No one is declaring victory by any stretch of the imagination," Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Sean Kouplen said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 57,000 Oklahomans said they haven’t looked for work in the past four weeks. More than 56,000 said they are going back to work. Those two numbers together helped the state slice its unemployment rate nearly in half.

"It's really both people getting back to work and people not seeking employment," Kouplen said.

According to a June report, Oklahoma now has the fifth lowest unemployment in the country at 6.6% compared to 12.6% in May.

"I don't think there's been anyone in the nation as aggressive about getting businesses opened back up very early and then providing so many incentive programs," Kouplen said. 

The commerce secretary said keeping people safe and reopening the economy are not mutually exclusive. 

"I want everybody to be safe, I am a mask wearer. I think it's a good idea to wear masks," Kouplen said. "The quicker that we can help people feel safe, then the quicker they're going to get out and spend money and our economy is going to rebound faster. There's no question about that."