The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 7, 2012

County jobless rate ticks up slightly

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Despite a slight increase in the jobless rate, economic recovery continues to be strong in Garfield County, business leaders say.

Garfield County’s unemployment rate showed a slight gain in September, up to 3.5 percent from 3.4 percent in August.

“Employment was up by 51 people, but unemployment was up by 17 people,” said John Carpenter, of Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Because there are so many fewer unemployed people in the county than there are employed people, the impact when there are numbers added to the unemployed is greater, he said.

“If you add a hundred people to those employed, it is a smaller percentage than if you add to those unemployed,” Carpenter said.

He said people who had given up looking for work previously are seeking work again, and now are considered unemployed, thus the increase in the unemployment rate.

“This is the type of movement we see during an economic recovery, and it is consistent with that,” Carpenter said.

The same type of recovery is being seen across nearly all counties in the state and fluctuates monthly, he said. The trend is for all counties to see increased employment and a small increase in the unemployment rate.

Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance, said there is a third number not mentioned by the Oklahoma Employment Security Committee: the size of the labor force. Kisling said the labor force has been “huge” in the last several months.

“There are a number of people who are capable of and searching for work. That’s why some of the population estimates have gone up, also,” Kisling said.

A recent census estimate placed Enid about 52,000 residents, while the 2010 report said Enid population was 49,000. Kisling said in the last two years many people have come into Enid and are in the labor force looking for jobs. Enid is in a growth mode with new people and new jobs, he said.

Many people are moving to Enid for energy-sector jobs, and Kisling said most of those are male-dominated jobs. Those people bring their families and their spouses also are looking for employment.

“You bring one person, but there are actually two looking for jobs, that’s another reason the number goes up,” Kisling said.

Many of what Kisling called Enid’s legacy companies are in growth modes. The best example could be GEFCO, which is experiencing growth after its purchase last year by Aztec. Central Machine and Tool and Triangle Insurance also are expanding, Kisling said. Triangle recently purchased the former Continental Resources south tower in downtown Enid. Company officials said the purchase was because they needed more room due to growth.

“One of the biggest sectors is health care,” Kisling said. “With the increase of people to the community, there is a need to increase nurses and health care professionals at hospitals and doctors offices around town.”

According to research, the No. 1 need in Enid is oil and gas workers, but the second-largest need is in health care-related professions.

Jon Blankenship, president of Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, said Marsau Enterprises on 30th is in need of employees.

“The are bursting at the seams. We’re also approaching the seasonal peak employment with the holidays in retail, he said.

Marlin Esau, of Marsau Enterprises, said his company is busy and is hiring. As of Tuesday, he estimated the company employed about 550 people.

“We’ve got a couple of people working here,” he said.

Marsau Enterprises is an oilfield construction business, and Esau said everything is tied to the oil industry. He has been in the business more than 30 years.

“I’ve been in it long enough to know that you’ve got to do it while you got it,” he said.

 Betsy Mittelstet, HR and recruiting manager at AdvancePierre Foods, said they have about 100 positions currently open in the production plant.

“That’s a lot for us,” she said.

Mittelstet said AdvancePierre has lost employees to the oilfield. Nationally, there are about 40 management and salaried positions open in the company. Other production plants across the country use staffing companies, she said. Enid is the only plant that hires its own employees.

“Since we merged with Pierre a couple of years ago, our volume is double what it was and a lot of that production has moved to Enid,” Mittelstet said. “A lot of people are not aware of what a big company we are. We have big production needs and the need for employment has gone up as well.”