WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Extending unemployment benefits for another 14 weeks crossed a procedural hurdle in the Senate today. Sixty senators — including six Republicans — agreed a $6.4 billion plan will have a vote in Congress. Oklahoma’s two Republican Senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn voted no.
The House must also approve the measure that impacts 1.3 million people nationwide. Speaker of the House John Boehner said the plan needs to bring people back into the workforce and be paid for by making cuts elsewhere.
State Democrats in the House Ways and Means Committee projected that 19,400 Oklahomans would be cut off from unemployment benefits by June if the Emergency Unemployment Program is not extended by Congress.
“I think what they’re doing there is they’re guessing the number of new claimants that are coming on board and they projected 26 weeks out,” said John Carpenter, public information officer for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
More than 4,900 Oklahomans were collecting the extended unemployment compensation when the program expired Dec. 31, Carpenter said. Congress has renewed the program three times since the program was enacted in 2008. The state was averaging 16,000-17,000 unemployment claims per week before extended unemployment benefits ceased Dec. 28, Carpenter said..
Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, said Ken Miller, state treasurer. Jobs in local government is an area of accelerating growth, Carpenter said.
“It took a big hit during the recession. There were a lot of jobs cut from government,” Carpenter said. “It’s starting to make a comeback. Leisure and hospitality — things like fast food places are beginning to add jobs, too.”
Job growth in Oklahoma has also occurred in construction. There are other places for employment expansion as well, but most of the growth has occurred in these areas, he said.
Oklahoma County’s unemployment rate in November was 5.0 percent, down from 5.6 percent in October. Logan County also reported lower unemployment at 4.4 percent, down from 5.1 percent in October, Carpenter said.
The state’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent before the recession began in September, 2008, Carpenter said.
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