OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was up slightly in July, rising 0.2 percentage points, as the number of people seeking jobs increased and total employment declined, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Friday.
The jobless rate rose from 4.7 percent in June to 4.9 percent in July, still more than 3 percent below the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.
The number of Oklahomans without a job increased by 2,860 to 87,820, total employment fell by 1,980 to just more than 1.7 million while the number of job seekers rose by 880 to 1.79 million, the commission reported.
The largest job losses came in the professional and business services sector with a decrease of 5,000 workers. The financial sector lost 300 jobs over the month, while the arts, entertainment and recreation industry experienced a decline of 400 jobs. The trade, transportation and utilities industries had 200 fewer jobs.
The commission reported that the largest job gains came in the educational and health services sector, which added 2,600 jobs, and the manufacturing sector that added 1,000.
The reason for the large number of job losses in the professional and business sector was not immediately clear, according to commission spokesman John Carpenter.
“It’s been growing month to month for a while now, so that is kind of breaking the pattern now. So we’ll see next month what happens,” he said. He noted that sometimes plants shut down for retooling, affecting monthly jobless figure.
“The state’s unemployment rate was the fourth lowest in the nation in July, behind North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, Carpenter said. It was tied for the fourth lowest rate in June.
Jobs are available in Oklahoma, although qualifications to fill those positions are rising, according to a recruiter for the employee recruitment firm HLP Solutions.
“The bread and butter of our particular industry is customer service. There are so many call centers and customer service centers around Oklahoma,” senior recruiter Ashley McMillan told The Associated Press.
Those employers are becoming more selective, McMillan said.
“What the customer service industry previously was known for was, no experience, they’d hire right off the street,” she said.
That industry is now seeking employees with call center experience, McMillan said.
“We’re also seeing a lot of influx in oil and gas, along the lines of exploration and development personnel like engineers and geologists,” she said. “We are also seeing several manufacturers who are opening up branches here in Oklahoma who are hiring like entry level machine operators and factory assembly workers.”