Oklahoma weekly unemployment claims declined last week

Adrienne Roberts and Kristi Tanner
Detroit Free Press

New weekly unemployment claims in Oklahoma declined last week compared with the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

New claims, a proxy for layoffs, dropped to 10,977 in the week ending May 1, down from 17,369 the week before, the labor department said.

There were 93,885 new claims in Oklahoma at the same time last year, when claims were at some of their highest levels in the pandemic in many states as businesses closed their doors and laid off workers.

U.S. unemployment claims dropped to 473,000 last week, down 34,000 claims from 507,000 the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis.

New claims for regular unemployment benefits have now dropped for five straight weeks, and reached their pandemic low last week. Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federal program that offers benefits to workers who don't qualify for regular benefits, also declined to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

"The good news is coming from all sides," said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

New U.S. claims peaked in the pandemic in early April last year at more than 6 million claims on a seasonally adjusted basis. Claims have slowly fallen since then as COVID-19 cases decline across the country and consumer confidence increases as more Americans are vaccinated.

Claims fell more than Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, expected, but Farooqi said in an email that claims are still at elevated levels.

"Filings are moving in the right direction, indicative of improving labor market conditions," she said. "We expect further declines in claims as businesses move closer toward normal capacity, which will boost job growth over coming months."

Konkel said the country's economic recovery can't "truly blossom" until more people are vaccinated.

"We haven’t crossed the finish line yet," she said.

New Hampshire saw the largest percentage increase in weekly claims, with claims jumping by 145.3%.Vermont, meanwhile, saw the largest percentage drop in new claims, with claims dropping by 92%.

New weekly unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, are an indicator of the health of a state's economy.