The Woodward News

July 4, 2013

Jobless rate up across state

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Labor statistics made headlines Tuesday when Oklahoma labor officials announced that the unemployment rate for all 77 counties in Oklahoma increased.

But according to Workforce Oklahoma Center Director Karla Pummel, Woodward's slight increase - from 2.4 percent in April to 3 percent in May - is nothing to get nervous about.

In fact, in the last two years, rate increases and decreases, she said, are usually linked to some fluctuation in the oil industry.

According to statistics provided by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, this time last year, the unemployment rate for Woodward in May was 4 percent.

"In this region, it can be something as simple as a couple of rigs going down for a while and they will be back up next month," said the 25-year employment service veteran.

Numbers show an increase of a little less than a point for most counties.

For instance, Sequoyah County has the highest rate of unemployment for May, 9 percent, which is up from 8.2 percent in April. Compare that to 8.0 percent for Sequoyah County in May 2012 and you have a clear trend that shows its unemployment rate consistently increasing.

Roger Mills County provided the state's lowest rate of unemployment in May with a rate of 2.2 percent. That is an increase over April with a rate of 1.8 percent but still an improvement over May 2012, when its rate was 2.3 percent.

Pummel cites a variety of factors that contribute to her somewhat sunny outlook on things here.

Harkening back to a darker time - say 2008 - when the bottom had fallen out of the economy, Pummel says the rate here never climbed more than 7 percent and that was short lived.

"At that time, we qualified for three tiers of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and now we only qualify for one tier," Pummel said.

While other counties, such as the largest county in the state, Oklahoma County, might be feeling the pressure from students entering the workforce during the summer months, in Woodward, Pummel says there are still new employment opportunities on the horizon.

"I really think that in our part of the state that our economy is looking really good.," Pummel said. "Look at all the construction. We are going to have the new little malls  -the one that is across the road from Atwoods and then there will be Tractor Supply on the west part of town and all those are non-oil field related jobs."