More than 50K Oklahomans file for unemployment amid COVID-19 pandemic

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The number of unemployment claims in the state continues to rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials say.

Last week, unadjusted initial claims in Oklahoma totaled 51,124, an increase of 3,380 from the previous record-setting adjusted week high of 47,744, revised up from the initially reported total of 44,970.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted initial claims totaled 6,606,000, a decrease of 261,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 6,867,000. This marks the second highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of this series.

“Oklahomans are seeking relief for their families in the wake of incomparable business closures and job losses,” said Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Robin Roberson. “We have dramatically ramped up the number of employees available to assist callers. Our agency website is undergoing a significant transformation to improve the user-experience and simplify the claims filing process. We’re also holding a virtual Town Hall at 1:00 pm on Friday for an estimated 50,000 claimants and the general public to provide answers to questions about Unemployment Insurance, the claims filing process, and more.”

OESC will contact 30,000 claimants directly about Friday’s 1:00 p.m. virtual Town Hall event.

Other individuals may register for the event through EventBrite here and clicking on the Town Hall event.

Registration is free, and be sure to provide your name and email address.

Individuals who would like to participate in the virtual town hall may also do so at this link.

Out of work Oklahomans are encouraged to first file initial claims online.

The OESC phone systems continue to be overloaded despite an increase of 100 claims agents – a number that should double in the next week as the capability of the call center continues to be expanded.

“The US Department of Labor is in the process of finalizing its guidance on funds made available through the CARES Act for nontraditional workers,” Roberson said. “We’re optimistic these funds will be available in the next week. CARES funds will be backdated to March 30, 2020, to assist gig workers, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals seeking relief.”

The national weekly seasonally adjusted initial claims report is one of ten components in the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators. To smooth out the volatility in the weekly initial claims data, a 4-week moving average is used to assess trends.

In Oklahoma, the less volatile initial claims four-week moving average climbed 12,389 to 30,658 for the week ending 4/4/2020.

The advance unadjusted number for continued claims totaled 54,469, an increase of 29,201 from the previous week. The continued four-week moving average increased 9,351 to 28,268.

The new federal law expands the number of weeks of unemployment available to individuals impacted by COVID-19 related eligibility standards. It also increases the amount of funds an individual may receive weekly over the state’s established maximum payment for unemployment insurance.

The one-week waiting period to file for unemployment has been waived for first-time claimants. The state also waived the Benefit Wage Charge for employers with allowed claims directly related to COVID-19 closure or workforce reduction.

In the interim, laid-off workers should file for benefits whether they know they qualify.

Meanwhile, many employers urgently need workers. Look for jobs here.

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