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Oklahoma unemployment benefit requests slowly decreasing

Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 7:08 PM CST
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ARDMORE, Oklahoma (KXII) - Just in time for the holidays, the number of Oklahomans filing for unemployment has slowly declined during the past month, even in the midst of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported less than 50,000 new claims for the first time since April.

OESC’s Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said the pandemic has made comparing these numbers to years past difficult- but usually unemployment declines this time of year for a few reasons.

“We don’t see as many people on on employment because there is seasonal opportunities for jobs and whatnot,” Zumwalt said.

That’s still true this year, less people are filing for continued unemployment, and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reinstated a work search in November, requiring job seekers to actively log their search efforts twice a week.

“That is their number one priority is to try and find reemployment,” Zumwalt said. “But they’re also being exposed to other opportunities that are out there, especially the seasonal employment. That really becomes something that is an option for a lot of different workers this time of year and can kind of catapult them into another job.”

But there was a slight uptick in initial unemployment last week.

“We’re really going to have to monitor it and see if it has to do with the school closings, or if it’s because of the federal programs, exactly what is causing these trends to kind of have to change just a little bit,” Zumwalt said.

Even the CARES act programs could have an effect filing. But compared to other states, Zumwalt said Oklahoma is doing pretty well.

“The difference in the states is probably just to the degree that the pandemic has held us,” Zumwalt said.

She said some states on the west coast, such as California, have had to take out federal loans to continue paying unemployment.

“Oklahoma, fortunately, our trust fund is still solvent,” Zumwalt said. “We’re closely monitoring it. But we haven’t had to do those extraordinary measures at this point, to continue the program and to keep the trust fund solvent.”

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