Experts see ‘worker shortage’ in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – “Unemployment is meant to be a temporary assistance to move you on to the next step, so in that vein we are really focused on the reemployment piece at this point,” said Shelley Zumwalt with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

It’s a temporary assistance that many have relied on for months after being forced out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, Zumwalt says companies across Oklahoma, and across the pay spectrum, are hiring again. 

“In Oklahoma City specifically, we’ve seen the number of jobs available more than double since the beginning of the year,” said CEO of Snagajob, Mathieu Stevenson. 

Zumwalt says right now, many employers are having a tough time finding workers. 

“We hear from employers quite frequently that they’re having trouble especially in certain industries, hiring workers right now, and they have a need for them,” said Zumwalt. 

Photo goes with story
There’s a worker shortage in Oklahoma.

With pandemic benefits set to end in September, Zumwalt and Stevenson say we could see a rush of people trying to get jobs over the summer. 

“For people that are receiving benefits right now, if you have the option to get re-employed right now as opposed to waiting, please do,” said Zumwalt. 

“We’ve seen a sharp decline since the beginning of March, in the number of workers looking for jobs,” added Stevenson.

Stevenson says there are a few reasons why some are hesitant to return to work. 

He says first, people were able to continue and renew their unemployment benefits, second stimulus checks helped some, and workers still have ongoing health concerns. 

“The reality is some have more at their disposal then they otherwise might, there’s less of a need frankly for them to come back into the labor market,” said Stevenson. 

He also says some are hoping to get back to their pre-pandemic career. 

“The good news for a worker though we are starting to see that wages have materially increased,” said Stevenson. 

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is hosting job fairs to connect employers and those looking for work. 

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, majority of the people on unemployment right now really do want full time positions,” said Zumwalt.

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