TULSA, Okla. — Many Oklahoma residents are out of the workforce despite the state’s low unemployment rates.

About 25 percent of state residents between ages 25 and 54 don’t have a job, the Tulsa World reported .

Shelley Cadamy is the executive director of Workforce Tulsa, an organization connecting workers with businesses. Cadamy said the state has more jobs than qualified applicants.

“I’ve been trying to figure out the secret sauce to get people back into the workforce for a long time,” Cadamy said. “We need them.”

Princeton University researcher Alan Krueger said opioid use is keeping many residents from getting jobs. He said labor participation has decreased in places where more opioid pain medication is prescribed.

Oklahoma is the worst state in the U.S. for the use of pain killers for non-medical reasons, according to the National Mental Health Survey.

Researchers say other factors keeping residents out of work include poor health, prison records, family obligations, transportation, education and training.

Paul Henry, 55, hasn’t worked in about a decade because of multiple sclerosis and a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Henry said he’d like to work but that his medical conditions don’t allow him to.

Child care and transportation are two employment obstacles that are frequently overlooked, Cadamy said.

“We can get them the skills they need, but in many cases we can’t get them to the job,” she said.

Fewer workers mean less economic activity and state tax revenue. It also means more demands on public and private social service agencies.


Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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