Unemployment rates dipped across Southwest Oklahoma in June, but the numbers also contained some not-so-cheery news.
Comanche County’s jobless rate fell to 7 percent, down from 15.6 percent in May and a staggering 19.1 percent in April, the first month that reflected layoffs caused by the pandemic-induced shutdown of many businesses.
A major contributor to June’s improvement was the reopening of Southwest Oklahoma’s casinos. According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, leisure and hospitality employment jumped by 1,400 in the Lawton metro area (Comanche and Cotton counties). That accounted for almost all of the month-to-month gain of 1,500 jobs for the metro area.
Compared to a year earlier, the metro lost 2,300 jobs, most of them in professional and business services (down 900) and government (down 800).
The employment numbers also show that the labor force — the number of people with jobs or looking for jobs — has shrunk in almost every county in the region. Comanche County’s labor force, for example, fell by almost 1,600 from May to June, Stephens County’s labor force fell by about 800. Jackson County was one of the few county’s record growth in the labor force, but it was up only slightly.
Statewide, the commission reported that the labor force shrank by 73,411 compared to June 2019 and employment fell by 130,999.