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First-time state unemployment claims earlier this month were highest since August

First-time state unemployment claims earlier this month were highest since August

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Shelley Zumwalt (copy)

Oklahoma saw a decline in initial and continued unemployment claims last week, according to Shelley Zumwalt, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission executive director.

Continued unemployment claims declined again last week, while first-time claims earlier this month hit a mark not seen since early August, according to a government report.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 5,302 Oklahoma workers filed initial unemployment claims the week ending Saturday. That figure is in line with recent unrevised reports from recent weeks.

However, the revised initial unemployment claims figure for the week ending Jan. 16 — 7,144 — is the highest since early August.

Meanwhile, continued jobless claims — those filed after at least one week of unemployment — declined again last week, according to the report.

“We are encouraged to see the drop in continued claims for the 31st consecutive week,” said Shelley Zumwalt, executive director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. “There was a significant drop in continued claims from last week, but we do expect to see a correction in reporting from the U.S. Department of Labor that will increase claims but still show a decline.

“Our staff has worked incredibly hard to help claimants in need. In less than a year since last March, we have paid out over $4 billion in benefits.”

The Labor Department reported 20,267 continued claims were filed the week ending Saturday, compared to a revised number of nearly double — 40,059 — the week prior.

The three consecutive weeks of increasing initial claims comes as the OESC said Tuesday that it had completed payments to jobless Oklahomans under a new temporary federal Continued Assistance Act program.

The Continued Assistance Act extends benefits an additional 11 weeks, up to a maximum of 50 weeks for gig, contract and self-employed workers qualified to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits can receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, for a maximum of 24 weeks, under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

PUA, PEUC and regular unemployment claimants are also eligible to receive an additional $300 weekly benefit under the Continue Assistance Act. The $300 per week is available through March 14.

“Our team worked tirelessly to get benefits into the hands of claimants in order to provide much needed relief,” Zumwalt said. “On Monday and Tuesday, the agency paid out over $240 million to claimants in Continued Assistance Act benefits. This is more funds paid out in two days than the nearly $230 million OESC paid out in four months for the Lost Wage Assistance program. I am grateful for our staff’s hard work in making this happen efficiently.”

Nationwide, first-time claims totaled 847,000 the week ending Saturday, a decline of 67,000 from a revised level the week prior.

Statewide, the 40,059 continued claims filed the week ending Jan. 9 represent an unemployment rate of 2.6%.


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