Although the state’s jobless rate fell slightly in January, unemployment rose in all six southern Oklahoma counties, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.


Although the state’s jobless rate fell slightly in January, unemployment rose in all six southern Oklahoma counties, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

In Carter County, the jobless rate rose from 5.6 percent in December 2009 to 6.1 in January 2010. That compares to 5.7 percent in January 2009.

Jefferson County again recorded the area’s highest unemployment rate at 8.4 percent. Murray County had the area’s lowest rate at 4.9 percent. Unemployment rose above 8 percent in both Marshall and Johnston counties.

McCurtain County had the state’s highest jobless rate for the month at 12.1 percent. Beaver County reported the state’s lowest county rate at 3.4 percent. All January figures are preliminary and subject to revision. The February county-by-county jobless report is scheduled to be released in early April.

Oklahoma recorded a January jobless rate of 6.7 percent, which was down slightly from December’s rate of 6.8 percent. In January 2009, the state’s jobless rate was 5 percent. Michigan had the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 14.3 percent in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oklahoma City’s January unemployment rate of 6.7 percent is the lowest among large metro areas, the U.S. Labor Department said. It’s risen only 2.9 percentage points in the past two years. About a fifth of the city’s workers are employed by state or local government, said Russell Evans, a regional economist at Oklahoma State University.

Since peaking at 10.1 percent in October, the nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 10 percent in November and December before falling to 9.7 percent in January and February. The widespread layoffs of a year ago have slowed. But many businesses still lack enough confidence to hire.

“The lack of hiring remains the No. 1 threat to the recovery,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

Zandi and other economists predict the jobless rate will resume climbing in coming months. That will happen, in part, because people who had stopped looking for work out of frustration will re-enter the job market to resume their search.

“What we are seeing is the unevenness of the recovery. Many sectors of the economy are still struggling,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a private forecasting firm.

High-tech manufacturing is managing to make a comeback, Behravesh said. But the housing slump has only leveled off, auto production is still weak and commercial real estate remains in a deep recession.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.