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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Unemployment rate rises half-percent

  • Pottawatomie County experienced an increase in unemployment for the month of June.
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  • Pottawatomie County experienced an increase in unemployment for the month of June.
     
    Having remained steady in the month of May, the percentage climbed a half-percent in the month of June, to rest at 5.5 percent.
     
    This is a 0.6 percent increase over this time last year.
     
    The state average also rose slightly, with a 5.1 unemployment percent for June, compared to May’s flat 5 percent. For the first time in several months, Pottawatomie County’s unemployment rate is above the state average.
     
    While it may appear that jobs are slowly disappearing, Tim Burg, executive director for the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation, dismissed this idea.
     
    “There are still a lot of jobs if an individual has skills,” Burg said. “There’s still a strong demand for individuals with the correct technical skills.”
     
    He went on to explain that the half-percent increase isn’t as significant as it may seem.
     
    “Of course, if you got laid off it’s very significant,” Burg said, but added that he is often besieged by companies looking for qualified workers.
     
    “When I talk to companies, they’re look for people,” he said, specifically mentioning TDK, Exxon Mobile, and Wolverine, among others.
     
    These jobs often, if not always, require soft skills, including dependability and timeliness, but also require hard skills – meaning technical skills, such as machinists or other certifications.
     
    “If a person needs to gain some additional skills, Shawnee is perfectly suited to help with Gordon Cooper Technology Center,” Burg added.
     
    John Carpenter, spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, was quick to dismiss the idea that this increase is a wave of the future.
     
    "It was the type of movement we see each year for the May to June period." Carpenter said. "That's primarily because public schools and universities are transitioning to a summer schedule," with fewer teachers, professors and support personnel such as maintenance workers, mechanics and cooks.
     
    Carpenter said businesses that provide services to schools and universities are also affected and tend to reduce overall employment.
     
    "We'll see that kind of reverse itself around August or September," he said.
     
    Burg agreed that one of the causes was likely seasonal positions declining, adding that the sequestration may be partly to blame as well.
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    Burg explained that the sequestration didn’t only affect the furloughed workers. Additional several construction projects, which provide seasonal jobs, were cut back or eliminated as well.
     
    The highest unemployment rates in the state were in southeastern Oklahoma, with 9.2 percent unemployed in Latimer County and 8.9 percent in McCurtain County, while the lowest jobless rates in June were 2.9 percent in Rogers Mills County and 2.7 percent in Ellis County — both in northwestern Oklahoma.
     
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.
     
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