State of Employment: Oklahoma needs greater variety of jobs and job skills, experts say.


Kyle Nelson joined the Oklahoma workforce in 2010 as an in-state, college-educated, third-generation oil and gas professional.

But even with an Oklahoma State University geology degree in hand, and the industry pedigree in his blood, Nelson soon realized no one is immune to the boom and bust nature of employment in Oklahoma.

He worked for three energy companies, including Haliburton and Devon. Nelson was laid off in 2016 from Devon, and ultimately landed at a smaller firm where he worked while pursuing an MBA at night from the University of Central Oklahoma to secure greater job security.

Despite his efforts, the homegrown husband and father was laid off again this spring, for the second time in three years.

“You always knew layoffs could happen, it's always on your mind, you just never think it will be you,” Nelson said.

Nelson is one of more than 1.6 million people in Oklahoma's workforce. Unemployment rates are down, the number of Oklahomans employed is up, and the state is showing a healthy outlook for its labor force. But there is no escaping the reality that it could change quickly. Jobs often rise and fall with the cost of oil, and our economy booms and busts alongside it.

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