Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Idled workers continue to flood state’s unemployment system, data shows
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Data released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department show 48,977 Oklahomans filed initial claims for unemployment last week.
That initial count is 11,557 fewer than the agency’s adjusted initial claims count released Thursday for the state (60,534) showed for the week ending April 4.
Meanwhile, various businesses this week announced they are temporarily or permanently cutting their staffs as the coronavirus pandemic and other factors continue to impact the state’s economy.
Baker Hughes notified Oklahoma’s Office of Workforce Development Wednesday it was cutting 234 employees from its north Oklahoma City manufacturing center, which includes its Motor Center of Excellence.
Best Buy announced Wednesday it planned to furlough about 51,000 nationally, affecting nearly all of its part-time and some of its full-time workers at its stores, which include seven in the state.
State officials said Thursday they were notified by Hertz it cut staff at its Oklahoma City center for data and calls, though an initial number of workers who lost their jobs wasn’t provided.
And earlier this week, they announced Michelin temporarily furloughed 1,500 employees from its Ardmore tire production plant using a unique mass filing feature, negating the need for individual employees to file claims.
Typically, that type of filing is made by a business that only expects its employees to be idled for eight weeks or fewer as the business reconfigures or updates its facilities.
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Earlier this month, Michelin announced it was retooling many of its tire production facilities to make badly-needed masks and face shields for health care workers and other people who need the protection to safely perform their jobs.
Finally, SandRidge Energy announced Thursday it was cutting another 26 workers from its staff at its corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City.
“Our numbers for last week are still extraordinarily high as additional employers cut staff and implemented layoffs to adjust to this dramatic downturn in the economy,” Robin Roberson, executive director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission stated in a release it also issued on Thursday.
“As an agency responsible for connecting displaced workers with unemployment benefits, we continue to make tremendous strides in disbursing funds to provide relief.”
Roberson said the agency now has about 1,200 claims representatives who either are taking calls on the agency’s help line, 1-800-555-1554, or are manning the agency’s online chat feature at oesc.ok.gov.
She said the agency also is working on an application for mobile phone users that will allow them to file claims using that technology, too.
Roberson said the agency continues to request Oklahomans who need to file first-time claims for aid to do so online.
She said aid for idled self-employed people or other unemployed workers who have exhausted their regular benefits is expected to become available for disbursement sometime this week.
That extra assistance is being provided through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, part of the federal government’s CARES Act.