News Column

Oklahoma's Employment Continues Strong Recovery

May 21, 2012

Laurie Winslow

Oklahoma's unemployment rate continued to improve in April as it fell to 5.0 percent, according to information released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

April's rate is the lowest since December 2008, when it was 4.8 percent. The rate dropped from 5.4 percent in March and was below the 5.9 percent recorded in April 2011.

Nationwide, Oklahoma and Arizona experienced the largest over-the-month unemployment rate decline for the month, according to the BLS.

"I would say it's strong, especially coupled with last month's report. It portrays a labor market that's recovering with some speed," said Lynn Gray, chief economist at the OESC.

Two surveys -- a smaller one taken among households and a larger one taken among business establishments -- reveal employment growth.

"They're both headed in the right direction. ... The recovery is picking up some steam, or at least it was in March and April," Gray said.

According to the household survey, the state's labor force, which includes people working and looking for work, rose by 1,500, while the number of unemployed fell by 7,800.

The larger "establishment" survey shows that Oklahoma's nonfarm employment grew by 3,700 over the month to total 1,585,700. That total represented 38,500 more jobs, or a 2.5 percent increase, from April 2011.

Total employment, which includes farm jobs and self-employed individuals, rose by 9,300 jobs from March to April.

"It's a very encouraging sign that we continue in this recovery, particularly in Oklahoma," said Steve Agee, dean of the Oklahoma City University Meinders School of Business. "My contacts at the Federal Reserve, they're seeing modest improvement throughout the nation. ... So, we happen to have the gift of a lot of positive things going on in our state, a lot of which is related to the energy industry."

Manufacturing also is experiencing more robust activity, which is good for the Tulsa area. Statewide, manufacturing was up 500 jobs over the month and 8,600 jobs from a year ago.

"We're just seeing positive signs in most every sector of the economy, and when we see manufacturing starting to pick up, that is a good indicator," Agee said.

Also, on a positive note for consumers, dropping oil prices in the last few weeks are lowering gasoline prices. That, in turn, helps people's pocketbooks and leads to more discretionary spending, Agee said.

Nationwide, regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in April. The BLS said 37 states and the District of Columbia recorded drops in their jobless rates, while five states posted rate increases and eight had no change.

Nationwide, 48 states and the District of Columbia all had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier.

The West continued to record the highest regional unemployment rate in April at 9.5 percent, while the Midwest again reported the lowest at 7.2 percent.

Nevada's 11.7 percent rate in April was the highest nationwide, while North Dakota's 3.0 percent was the lowest.

Jobs gains and losses among Oklahoma's 11 super sectors over the month in April:

(Data based on seasonally adjusted data from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission)

Mining and logging , -800

Construction, +200

Manufacturing, +500

Trade, transportation and utilities, +5,100

Information, unchanged

Financial activities, -900

Professional and business services, +1,900

Educational and health services, -2,500

Leisure and hospitality, +300

Other services, -900

Government, +800

Performance of state's super sectors over the year:

Mining and logging, +6,500

Construction, -3,100

Manufacturing, +8,600

Trade, transportation and utilities, +11,000

Information, -700

Financial activities, +800

Professional and business services, +7,700

Educational and health services, +2,000

Leisure and hospitality, +1,500

Other services, -1,300

Government, +5,500



Source: (c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)


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