On a Roll, Oklahoma Expected to Add Jobs This Year

August 8, 2008

Oklahoma added 22,500 jobs last year as the energy sector fueled an employment growth rate of 1.4 percent, sixth highest among all states, according to a newly released report.

“We’re growing 1 percent faster than the national rate,” said Mark Snead, Oklahoma State University economist and author of the updated 2008 Oklahoma Economic Outlook report released Wednesday. “I believe it would take a very severe recession at the national level to pull job growth. This is a fun time to be in Oklahoma. This is as good as it gets.”

While the state has slowed during the first two quarters of 2008, Oklahoma’s more stable housing market, stronger job growth and fewer credit issues have kept it ahead of the national decline and most nonenergy states.

Although oil and gas production is flat and drilling is only a fourth of what it was in the early 1980s, the industry has fueled a hiring spike and a “mini oil boom” that is adding between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs a year and pushing average wage and salary range to $100,000 a year, Snead said.

“Every aspect of oil and gas make it our most dominant industry … it’s having an important impact.”

Wholesale trade and real estate are the only sectors with expected job losses this year, and consumer driven service sectors continue to add jobs. Manufacturing remains strong, although job gains are from energy-related companies.

Data show the state’s population is growing faster than the U.S. rate as people move from out of state to metro areas and from metro areas into rural areas. Oklahoma also is benefiting from the expansion of tribal gaming, which is dominating the economies of some cities, such as Bartlesville, Ponca City and Shawnee.

Oklahoma City’s outlook remains quite positive, propelled by oil and gas industry hiring and more jobs in the services sectors, Snead said. Only Tulsa is showing some weakness, he said. Although strong in 2007, Tulsa’s economy more resembled the national economy so far this year.

“My best guess is that this data is real, and Tulsa has downshifted,” compared to Oklahoma City, he said. “Tulsa will be the weaker partner the rest of this year.”

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