The interim head of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Monday they’re making good progress getting through a backlog of claims.

The goal was to get through 25% of them by last Friday after the Office of Management and Enterprise Services took over processing and other tasks. OESC Interim Director Shelley Zumwalt said they’ve exceeded that goal.

"We processed roughly 29% of the claims backlog, which includes both PUA and regular unemployment benefits, and that percentage is likely a low estimate," Zumwalt said.

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Robin Roberson resigned Friday hours after OESC handed over unemployment claim processing and other tasks to the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Roberson's resignation was first reported by The Oklahoman. Roberson was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Gov. Kevin Stitt picked her to lead OESC and put off a double mastectomy after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Responding to complaints from Oklahomans across the state who say they're struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a state cabinet secretary said Tuesday that many issues and delays are being caused by the applicants themselves.

"The biggest issue that we've seen that's causing people to get - either they get paid one week and then it stalls, or they stall completely, are inconsistencies or incomplete information," said David Ostrowe, Governor Kevin Stitt's Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. 

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims aren’t being processed.

Most of those who gathered on the Capitol’s south steps were self-employed and complained of glitches with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s website, waiting on hold for hours to talk to an agent and not getting promised call backs.


Oklahoma may be among the targets of a Nigerian crime ring perpetrating 'massive' unemployment fraud against U.S. state programs.

After three weeks of declining new unemployment claims, Oklahoma set another new record during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were 68.237 initial claims last week, almost 16,000 more than the week prior and about 6,500 more than the previous record, set the week ending April 4.

The record number of claims include gig workers who recently became eligible for benefits, but they don’t completely account for the spike.

Tim Mossholder

First-time unemployment claims fell in Oklahoma for the third week in a row.

For the week ended April 18, 42,577 people filed initial jobless claims, 4,119 fewer than the week before.

The 9% decline was less pronounced than a 26% drop the week before.

More than 260,000 Oklahomans have filed for unemployment over the past six weeks, with more than 60,000 in the week ending April 4 alone.

File photo

Some members of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development are concerned the additional $600 a week in federally funded unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic will keep workers from returning when their employers reopen.

In a webinar hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Monday, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said he fears that the amount of money paid out to Americans as federal unemployment benefits under new coronavirus legislation may be overly generous and bad economic policy.

"That's been the challenge of unemployment during this time period," Lankford said. "That we have a disincentive to get back to work." 

File photo

New jobless claims are down a second straight week in Oklahoma.

Last week, 40,297 people filed for unemployment, a 26% drop from 54,481 the week before.

Almost 225,000 Oklahomans have now lost their jobs over the past five weeks, with a single-week record of more than 60,000 the week ending April 4.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is now accepting pre-applications from gig workers and others unable to work during the COVID-19 pandemic who don't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.

Federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are intended for gig workers, independent contractors, other self-employed individuals and workers whose regular unemployment benefits have expired and were laid off, furloughed or are otherwise out of work due to the pandemic.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Updated April 17, 2:10 p.m.

The City of Tulsa will furlough around 1,000 employees for half-days every Friday beginning May 3 through the end of 2020.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said high unemployment and low oil prices are expected to cause a dramatic drop in sales tax collections, the city's only source of operating funds.

Much like during last year's spring storms when the city decided to warn people to brace for a flood event on par with 1986, officials decided it would be best to prepare now for the worst-case scenario.

File photo

The number of Oklahomans filing first-time unemployment claims declined for the first time since mid-March.

For the week ending April 11, 48,977 Oklahomans filed initial unemployment claims, according to unadjusted numbers from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. That was down from 60,534 claims filed the previous week, which stands as Oklahoma's all-time record.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma's record for new unemployment claims was 9,778 for the week ending Jan. 12, 1991.

From Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission's executive director, Robin Roberson, hosted a telephone town hall on Tuesday to answer constituent questions regarding relief programs to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Introducing Roberson, Lankford said "she handles and coordinates unemployment insurance for our state."

On this edition of ST, we learn about Tulsa's Center for Employment Opportunities (or CEO). CEO is a nationwide nonprofit that helps people who've just come out of prison find jobs and/or acquire skills and training. The Tulsa CEO branch opened in 2011; our guest is Adrienne Yandell, who directs the Tulsa outlet. Per the CEO Tulsa website: "CEO guarantees every participant who completes a one-week job-readiness orientation up to four days a week of transitional work on a crew and daily pay -- a critical asset during an important time.

On this edition of our program, we offer an engaging conversatiuon with Deborah Hunter, a Behavioral Health Rehab Specialist and Case Manager at Family & Children's Services here in Tulsa. She's been with F&CS since 2011, and she is also a longtime and award-winning poet. Interestingly, Hunter also works as a social worker for the Tulsa City-County Library, mainly at the TCCL's Central Branch (and 5th and Denver).

Tulsa Area Unemployment Rises

Aug 1, 2012
KWGS News file photo

The latest figures show unemployment in the Tulsa Metro area up for the first time in several months. John Carpenter is with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. He says the rate for June rose four-tenths of a point to 5.7 percent. It’s the first rise in those out of a job in the Tulsa area in several months.

Carpenter says Tulsa’s unemployment rate is still much lower than the national average. Statistics for the entire state will be released later this month.

File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The unemployment rate fell by a tenth of a percentage point in June to a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Friday that 3,200 jobs were added in the state from May to June and that the number of jobless fell by 340.

The leisure and hospitality industry added 1,400 jobs during the month while 900 jobs were added in the financial services sector and the construction industry added 800 jobs.

Unemployment in Tulsa UP in May

Jun 27, 2012
File photo

The Tulsa Metropolitan  Unemployment rate increased last month. The figures were released today.

The report shows the number of people out of work in the Tulsa Metro to be at 5.5% . The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s John Carpenter says the April rate was4.9%t.

The May figure is still well below the national average and below the Tulsa average for the same period last year.

Hundreds seek employment at a Tulsa job fair

Jun 19, 2012
KWGS News File Photo

It’s another sign of economic resurgence in Oklahoma as hundreds of hopefuls go for interviews at a job fair in East Tulsa. Fair organizers say companies, especially those in the manufacturing industry, are hiring. More than 30 firms participate in the fair, looking to fill positions from entry level to upper management. One of those hoping for a job is John Hogshooter, who isn’t having much luck in the construction business back home. He says he drove hundreds of miles to attend the event here in Tulsa.

More Oklahomans Working

Apr 20, 2012

Another tumble in the Oklahoma unemployment rate! Figures released today show the state rate dropped last month to 5.4%. That is down six-tenths of one percent.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s John Carpenter says most of the long-term unemployed have now found work. He says employment in the state was up by 10,000 workers last month.

The Oklahoma rate is well below the national average for March, which was 8.2%

You may hear comments on this story from the ESC's John Carpenter by clicking the LISTEN button above.

Unemployment in Oklahoma drops slightly

Mar 30, 2012

The latest Oklahoma statewide unemployment figures are out, and more people had jobs. John Carpenter with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says in February the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point to 6.0 percent.


It’s the second straight month unemployment has dropped in Oklahoma.The county by county unemployment numbers won't be out until April 10th.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Employment statistics show Latimer County had the highest unemployment rate in Oklahoma in January at 11.3 percent.

That's more than 5 percentage points higher than the state average of 6.1 percent.

A county-by-county breakdown from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission puts Latimer at the highest rate, followed by Hughes County at 10.6 percent and Sequoyah County at 10.4 percent.

The lowest rate was in Roger Mills County, at 2.8 percent. Dewey and Ellis counties were at 3 percent, followed by Beaver County at 3.2 percent.