In The Know: Oklahoma Unemployment Exceeds National Rate First Time In 26 Years

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Unemployment Exceeds National Rate First Time In 26 Years: Gross Receipts to the Treasury continued their downward trajectory for an 18th consecutive month in August as unemployment figures released late in the month show Oklahoma’s jobless numbers exceed the national rate for the first time in 26 years, according to State Treasurer Ken Miller. Reports released on Tuesday by Miller show gross receipts, which provide a broad view of state economic activity, were down by 4 percent in August compared to the same month of last year [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma child welfare improvement plan gets extension to implement changes: With the five-year deadline on the state’s child welfare improvement plan coming up in December, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the attorneys representing foster children have agreed to extend the timeline to fully implement the reforms. The extension stems from the acknowledgement that the requirement of having at least two years of sustained progress isn’t going to be met [Tulsa World]. The plan has consistently struggled to meet benchmarks since 2012 [OK Policy].

Geologist Sees Clues, and Further Dangers, in Puzzle of Oklahoma’s Earthquakes: Scientists and regulators agree that earthquakes like the 5.6-magnitude tremor that struck Oklahoma on Saturday, and thousands of smaller ones in recent years, have been spurred by the disposal of millions of tons of wastewater that is pumped to the surface, and then injected back into the ground, during oil and gas production. The shock last week tied a record set in 2011 in Prague, Okla., for the strongest such tremor in the state’s history [New York Times].

Shake on it: Regulators must cooperate after magnitude 5.6 quake: State and federal regulators will have to cooperate to answer questions about Saturday’s magnitude 5.6 earthquake in north-central Oklahoma. Federal regulators plan to follow Oklahoma’s lead and shut down injection wells in Osage County, according to email communication between two agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency should also make available to scientists more data about the disposal wells in that county, said University of Tulsa geosciences professor Bryan Tapp [Journal Record]. 

Shut Down Of Injection Wells To Impact OK Economy: In a few days, 37 injection wells near Pawnee will be shut down indefinitely. This was ordered by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission after the 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Saturday. Chad Warmington, President of Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association, said this will impact the economy. Some of them are multi-million dollar wastewater injection wells. For those companies, it will be a big loss over time [News9].

State needs to be more aggressive on earthquake danger: Many Oklahomans got a rude — and frightening — awakening Saturday. A 5.6 magnitude earthquake centered near Pawnee, struck at 7:02 a.m. Saturday followed by several aftershocks. The shaking was felt in at least six states and had the nerves of Tulsans rattled for a long time after the actual quake had ended [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

At the intersection of hunger and health: In the food banking world, we frequently measure need in terms of “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is an economic condition describing a lack of adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, there are more than 650,000 food insecure people in Oklahoma — about 1 in 6 Oklahomans. At the same time, rates of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease remain high, and Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation [Effie Craven / OK Policy].

Players and Money Behind Penny Sales Tax Campaigns: Polling shows a large majority of voters have chosen sides on State Question 779, the proposed 1 percent sales tax increase for education. But millions of dollars will be spent in the coming months in an effort to lock up their votes. What voters don’t know is where the money being spent on that campaign is coming from. That’s because the groups on both sides have yet to disclose their donors, and some groups may never disclose them [Oklahoma Watch]. Read about the state questions on the November ballot [OK Policy].

Medical marijuana supporters sue Pruitt over wording of ballot title: Supporters of an effort to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s rewriting of their ballot title. The challenge to Pruitt’s description of State Question 788 was filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Oklahomans for Health, the organization that circulated the initiative petition to get the measure on the ballot [Tulsa World].

OK County justice reform effort striving to meet its goals: Late last year, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber brought together a group of civic, elected and criminal justice leaders to conduct an evaluation of our county’s criminal justice system. Our goal is to gain an understanding of how the system is working; to develop a series of recommendations to improve its efficiency and effectiveness, and to understand the infrastructure needed to support the system’s success long term [Clayton Bennett / NewsOK].

Estate of Oklahoma man who died in 2015 prison fight sues private prison company: The estate of a man who died in a September 2015 fight at Cimarron Correctional Facility filed suit Tuesday against the prison’s managing company and an unidentified inmate. The lawsuit alleges that staff at the Cushing prison were complicit in allowing contraband to collect in inmates’ cells and encouraged competition in drug trafficking that added to tension in an already volatile unit [Tulsa World].

Corporation Commission to Hold Possible Vote on 1989 Bribed Rate Hike Case: The efforts of some consumers to force the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to reopen a 1989 bribed vote that granted a rate hike to then-Southwestern Bell could end on Wednesday. It’s when the Commission has scheduled a vote on the case that consumers want to see an estimated $16 billion returned to ratepayers. The issue came back before the commission last month but in Commissioner Dana Murphy’s absence, Commissioner Todd Hiett indicated he would vote to dismiss the case sought by the group called Oklahomans Against Bribery [OK Energy Today].

Undocumented Oklahoma student faces obstacles to becoming a doctor: Samantha Basave’s interest in the medical field began at age 8 when she would translate the instructions from doctors for her Spanish-speaking mother. Her brother had just been born with Down syndrome, and Basave was her family’s only hope at overcoming the language barrier. Born in Mexico City, Basave was brought to Oklahoma at age 3 by her mother [NewsOK].

Union Public Schools receives $105,000 from TTCU fundraiser: TTCU The Credit Union has presented a $105,000 check to Union Public Schools as part of its SOS — Support Our Schools challenge campaign and School Pride program. The credit union launched the funding campaign in early June with the aim of raising up to $4 million for the 15 largest schools in the Tulsa area. TTCU started the campaign to help the schools “cope with state funding shortfalls,” according to a news release [Tulsa World].

ODOT to receive $11.4 million from state surplus: The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will receive $11.4 million from the state surplus, officials said Tuesday. ODOT officials and the office of management and enterprise services agreed to the amount during a meeting. State agencies will receive $140.8 million from the surplus revenue. The state ended up with the surplus when the fiscal year ended in June after midyear cuts were ordered to state agency budgets amid tax collections [KOCO].

Quote of the Day

“We keep scouring through the data to find signs of an impending turnaround, but it’s just not there. Some aspects of the August report aren’t as negative as in prior months – a few revenue streams have ticked up slightly – but we can’t yet point to a positive trend.”

-State Treasurer Ken Miller, on a report showing that Oklahoma’s gross tax receipts in August were 4 percent lower than the same month last year (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma ranking for wind power production, 2015

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

On Social Security’s 81st anniversary, a reminder that it’s also a lifeline for children: One of the raps on Social Security is that it supposedly pits the older generation against the younger. This seems intuitive — after all, retired Americans collect the benefits but those in the working population make all the contributions. The notion of a generational war has been pushed aggressively by (among others) Boston University economist Lawrence Kotlikoff, author of the apocalyptic 2005 book “The Coming Generational Storm” and of academic papers and newspaper columns in which he writes of “the terrible zero-sum nature of the generational game we are playing against our children” [LA Times].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma Unemployment Exceeds National Rate First Time In 26 Years

  1. If the OK County crim justice group is serious about real reform, it starts by reading thoroughly and daily the Twitter feed of John Pfaff (who has a book coming out soon), starting here:

    Then it brings him in for thorough discussions and makes him the primary consultant for what needs to be done. As someone with two decades of experience watching reformers and reforms settle for “glass tenth full,” I can predict that failure to listen to him will lead to the same weak tea and easily reversed “reforms” that we see in the current state questions, which, by going directly to the people rather than “stakeholders” holding stakes over the heart of real reform, are nevertheless better than anything the Justice Reinvestment or any sentencing commission people have ever come up with. But real reform means real politics and that means real controversy and use of real political power over those who would obstruct. So, IOW, look for more smoke, more mirrors, more reform groups ten years from now saying the same things and still using Bob Ravitz as a participant.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.