Starting Sunday, Oklahoma will again require people filing new unemployment claims wait one week before receiving benefits and prove they are actively searching for work.
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said that's because Gov. Kevin Stitt's emergency order waiving those provisions expires, but with the state's unemployment rate down to 5.3% in September, the time seems right to again require those.
Zumwalt said OESC is, however, seeking guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor about how to deal with people who can't return to work because their age or a medical condition makes it unsafe during the pandemic.
"This requirement's been there for decades. This isn't a new requirement, but that being said, we need to be prescriptive because we have an outstanding situation regarding health concerns for other people," Zumwalt said during a state Senate interim study this week.
An OESC news release said people will not have to leave their home to complete the work search requirement. Zumwalt stressed Oklahomans already receiving benefits will not be affected.
"Claimants that have already filed unemployment claims will not be required to have the one-week waiting period. This will just be for new claims," Zumwalt said.
Last week, around 5,400 Oklahomans filed new jobless claims, a small decline from the previous week. Nearly 64,000 people were receiving unemployment benefits, down more than 18,600 from the week before.
In May, Oklahoma saw a spike in new unemployment claims with more than 90,000 in a single week. In June, continued claims at one point neared 200,000.