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Unemployment claims show a mixture of good and bad news for Oklahoma

Unemployment claims show a mixture of good and bad news for Oklahoma

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Shelley Zumwalt (copy)

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Interim Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said Thursday that the state has paid about $4 billion in unemployment claims.

The weekly unemployment report was a mixture of good and bad news for Oklahoma as first-time claims for benefits declined while another metric shows claims hitting peaks not seen since July.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s initial report for the week ending last Saturday says 5,253 Oklahoma workers filed initial claims for regular unemployment benefits.

However, initial claims figures for the week prior — revised up from 5,698 to 7,667 — were the highest since late July.

The last time the revised number of initial claims topped 7,667 was the week ending July 25, when 8,927 Oklahomans filed first-time claims for benefits.

Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of continued claims — those filed after at least one week of unemployment — declined again for the 33rd consecutive week to 30,467, according to officials with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

“The continued decline in claims is certainly encouraging, but we remain focused on providing Oklahomans with the help they need as they continue to navigate unemployment,” said Shelley Zumwalt, the commission’s executive director.

“Between March 2020 and January 2021, OESC paid out more than $4 billion in benefits. That’s more than our agency has paid out to Oklahomans in the past 10 years combined,” she said.

“Even as claims decrease, our staff continues to work hard to improve our systems and processes to meet the needs of Oklahomans throughout the pandemic.”

The continued claims total of 30,467 for the week ending Jan. 30 was nearly 6,000 fewer than the revised figure of 36,364 who sought continued benefits the week ending Jan. 23.

Nationwide, 793,000 workers filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits the week ending Saturday, a decline of 19,000 from the prior week, according to seasonally-adjusted figures.

The Labor Department also reported that 538 state workers filed initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance the week ending Saturday. PUA is a temporary federal program for gig workers and the self-employed.

Nearly 17,000 PUA filers received continued benefits the week ending Jan. 23.


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