Tahlequah Daily Press

January 10, 2014

Workforce Center aids in job search

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — When they find themselves out of a job, the people of Cherokee County have a service to turn to in Tahlequah.

Partnering with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) and other state agencies, the Tahlequah Workforce Center offers multiple services to help the unemployed find jobs or training.

“One of our main duties to Oklahomans is to put people back to work,” said John Carpenter, public information officer for the OESC. “We work with employers and job-seekers to try to move those seeking jobs into positions with local employers as quickly as possible.”

Many Oklahomans are probably familiar with paycheck deductions for unemployment insurance. Deductions go to the state unemployment insurance trust fund, which makes weekly payments to unemployed workers for up to 26 weeks.

“Unemployment insurance benefits are administered through the headquarters in Oklahoma City,” Carpenter said. “But job-seekers can visit their local offices to get help with resumés, career planning, job referrals, skill enhancement services and credentialing. We can also acquire federal bonding for individuals who need to be bonded for employment.”

Information on applying for unemployment insurance is available at ok.gov/oesc_web. The Tahlequah Workforce Center, 1755 S. Muskogee Ave., can be reached at (918) 456-8846.

“I definitely encourage anyone who is looking for a job, or is underemployed and looking for a better job, to visit their local office, even if they have been there before,” Carpenter said. “Qualification factors change every year, and the services offered are free.”

Oklahoma unemployment insurance fund sound

The unemployment insurance fund in Oklahoma is on good footing, and the OESC likes to point out that the fund requested no federal assistance during the most recent recession.

For the past few years, the long-term unemployed were able to file for an extension of benefits through a federal program, but that was suspended with the budget compromise that ended the government shutdown of Oct. 1-16, 2013.  

On the national level, the issue of unemployment is an opportunity for both major parties to score points during a mid-term election year, best encapsulated by the scrum over extending long-term jobless benefits.

More than a million Americans who would receive unemployment benefits under the emergency unemployment compensation plan, passed in 2008, are now without assistance. Democrats want to continue extending payments up to a year after state unemployment insurance plans run out. Some Republicans oppose the extensions, while others express support, providing there are billions in spending cuts elsewhere to pay for them.

There is little incentive to compromise in an election year. If there is an agreement, it may be Republicans who give ground. Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration believe they have the GOP cornered on the issue, and can take credit for an agreement or blame Republicans for an impasse.

In an effort to turn the Democrats’ flank, some GOP members claim the benefits are extraneous as the economy strengthens and unemployment decreases. Democrats often suggest such comments are admissions that their economic policies are effective.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the U.S. unemployment rate at 7 percent for November 2013, the most recent month for which data is collated. Many Democrats hype the figure - the lowest in five years.

But from a historical standpoint, 7 percent is often considered a threshold for “high” unemployment. In the previous 50 years, unemployment has been below 7 percent in 421 of 600 months.

During the “Great Recession,” the unemployment figure in Oklahoma was at or above 7 percent from June 2009 to April 2010. The state’s rate for November 2013 was 5.4 percent, and 5.5 percent for Cherokee County.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com