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Nearly 45,000 Oklahomans File for Unemployment, Almost Doubling Record Set the Week Before

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A record 44,970 Oklahomans filed for unemployment last week, 23,044 more than the week before, which was the previous record.

That brings the total number of Oklahomans who have lost their jobs since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the state to nearly 67,000, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

"To call this unprecedented doesn’t being to explain the enormity of the impact COVID-19 related job losses are having on our state and our economy," OESC Executive Director Robin Roberson said in a statement. "We know people are anxious. We know people want to work. We know assistance is needed and we appreciate Oklahomans working with us to process this tsunami-like wave of claims quickly and efficiently."

Last week's 44,970 initial unemployment filings is an unadjusted number. The previous week's initial filings were revised up from 17,720 to 21,926.

The record for initial claims before the COVID-19 pandemic was 9,778 in January 1991.

Nationally, 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week, and nearly 10 million have filed in the past two weeks.

Federal funding for unemployment benefits going to gig workers and independent contractors is expected in about two weeks.

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

Roberson said out-of-work Oklahomans should file first initial claims online, as the OESC phone systems are overloaded.

Laid-off workers should file for benefits whether they know they qualify. Meanwhile, many employers urgently need workers.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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