News Column

Tulsa-area Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.1 Percent

Jan 9, 2013

Laurie Winslow

employment

November job growth was strong in metro Tulsa, where the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

November's rate was down from 5.6 percent in October and compared with 6.7 percent in November 2011. The area's lowest rate in 2012 was 4.9 percent in April.

People are finding work, and that is pushing the unemployment rate down, said Lynn Gray, the OESC's chief economist. It would be fair to say, he agreed, that the economic recovery is in full force.

"The level of employment growth we're seeing right now, the percentage of the annual growth, is what you would expect as you come out of a recession. And, of course, we didn't see that for a long time, but now we are at a level that you would expect when you bounce back out of a recession. ... It's just been delayed," Gray said.

A household survey, from which the unemployment rate is derived, recorded strong growth in total employment with a gain of more than 2,600 jobs over the month. Also, the area's labor force expanded while its number of unemployed shrank.

The unemployment rate dropped for all the right reasons, said Bob Ball, economist for the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

"This is a really good report going into the new year. ... We'll take all of these strong over-the-year numbers we can because we expect things to slow, but it's still going to be a good year," Ball said.

Ball's forecast for 2013 calls for the Tulsa area's total employment to grow by 1.8 percent, down from the 2.5 percent growth projected through the end of 2012.

A larger survey of business establishments shows that Tulsa's nonfarm employment grew by 1,800 over the month to total 424,000. That figure represented a gain of 9,500 jobs, or 2.3 percent, over November 2011.

Tulsa's nonfarm growth for the month is particularly strong, considering that the average growth in November between 1990 and 2011 has been 800 nonfarm jobs over the month, Gray said. He noted that Tulsa has only seen its November job growth exceed 1,800 one other time in that same period.

Among individual sectors, Tulsa area manufacturing added 700 jobs over the month and has gained 4,500 jobs since November 2011.

"That is also the best November for manufacturing since before 1990," Gray said.

If the bump up is due to temporary hiring, then it occurred at an unusual pace, Gray said, adding that he wouldn't expect to see a rise in manufacturing jobs due to seasonal hiring.

The food services and drinking places industry had a high employment gain of 800 over the month, which also is abnormal. Gray said he'll be curious to see how the number is revised because 2012 has been a weak year for that industry in the Tulsa area.

Oklahoma City and Lawton -- the state's other two metros -- also saw their rates drop to 4.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. Oklahoma City's rate was the lowest among the nation's 49 largest metros.

Nationwide, unemployment rates were lower than a year earlier in 322 of the 372 metros, higher in 36 areas and unchanged in 14.

Yuma, Ariz., recorded the highest unemployment rate at 27.5 percent, while Bismarck, N.D., had the lowest at 2.6 percent, according to the BLS. Job gains and losses among Tulsa metro's 11 super sectors during the month of November (Data based on nonseasonally adjusted data from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission)

Mining and logging +100

Construction -300

Manufacturing +700

Trade, transportation and utilities +1,600

Information -100

Financial activities unchanged

Professional and business services -700

Educational and health services -300

Leisure and hospitality +800

Other services -100

Government +100

Performance of metro's super sectors over the year Mining and logging +200

Construction +2,300

Manufacturing +4,500

Trade, transportation and utilities +1,400

Information -300

Financial activities unchanged

Professional and business services -400

Educational and health services +400

Leisure and hospitality -400

Other services -300

Government +2,100



Source: (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.