OKC area leads jobs rate

Thursday, August 30, 2012

by Don Mecoy

The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City's unemployment rate, already the lowest among the nation's large cities, fell to 4.8 percent in July.

The metro-area jobless rate declined 0.2 percentage points from 5 percent in June, according to figures issued Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department. It was the sixth consecutive month the Oklahoma City metro area has had the lowest rate among the largest 49 cities in the country.

Mayor Mick Cornett referred to the city's robust jobs market in his remarks Tuesday at the Republican National Convention. He said the numbers continue to amaze his peers.

"Other mayors, their jaws drop when I tell them what our unemployment is," Cornett said. "They think they're doing pretty well and they're in the 7 (percent unemployment) range."

However, Oklahoma City shed 7,800 jobs in July, with most of the losses in the local government sector, according to non-seasonally adjusted data.

"That's education," said Lynn Gray, chief economist for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. "You've got teachers not working during the summer so they're coming off of their contract for the academic year. They'll come back in September."

Seasonally adjusted statistics account for such cyclical occurrences as education workers who are off during the summer and young people who annually secure employment during winter break.

A year ago, Oklahoma City's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.

Gray said Oklahoma City's jobless rate typically falls in July as the number of unemployed people has declined in that month for the past 13 years. The same phenomenon occurs in Tulsa, Gray said, where the number of unemployed people has declined from June to July in every year since 1990. Gray said he isn't sure why that occurs.

Tulsa's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in July, down from 5.6 percent a month earlier. In 2012, Tulsa's jobless rate has risen 1.6 percentage points.