Report offers insight into state of economy


Mining and the leisure and hospitality industries have been adding jobs, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s latest economic outlook for Oklahoma. (Photo by Alex Haney via Unsplash)

Unemployment is low across Oklahoma, but some sectors, such as manufacturing, are still struggling to recover from the pandemic, according to the Oklahoma Economic Outlook report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City on Wednesday.

“The Oklahoma economy continued to strengthen during the third quarter of 2021,” reads the introduction to the report, by Chad Wilkerson, vice president and Oklahoma City branch executive for the Kansas City Fed.

“The state added 19,000 new jobs, and the unemployment rate continued to decline, ending the quarter at 3.0%, on par with its pre-pandemic rate,” Wilkerson wrote. “However, total payroll employment is still 52,000 fewer than pre-pandemic levels primarily due to unrecovered employment in manufacturing and local government.”

Unemployment in Oklahoma dropped to 3%, compared to the national rate of 7.8%. When broken down by county, unemployment in the Panhandle area is below 2%, while some areas of southeastern Oklahoma have an unemployment rate between 3% and 4%.

Energy activity increased during the third quarter, with seven new oil and gas rigs coming online, bringing the rig count up to 35 and representing a 6.8% share of U.S. activity. The mining industry increased by 1,000 workers during the period.

More than 11 million barrels of oil were produced in Oklahoma in August 2021, representing 3.4% of U.S. activity. Production for August 2021 showed a 2% decline compared to the previous month and a 17.1% decline compared to the previous year, when crude oil production in Oklahoma peaked around 20 million barrels.

“The Oklahoma housing market continued to strengthen in the second quarter, exhibiting 12.1% year-over-year home price growth,” Wilkerson wrote. Home prices nationwide increased by 17.4%.

While permits to build multifamily housing slightly outpace those for single-family dwellings on the national level, at 26.6% and 21.2% increases respectively, Oklahoma is showing a shift away from multifamily permits and toward single-family homes. Permits for single-family homes are up 17.8% compared to the previous year, while permits for multifamily units are down 18.7%.

Rental vacancy rates fluctuated widely over the last year before coming down to 5.4% in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the national rate of 6.2%.

“Personal income growth declined during the second quarter, primarily due to a decrease in contributions from transfer payments,” such as government aid and subsidies, Wilkerson wrote.

The average hourly wage in Oklahoma for September 2021 was $25.72, compared to the national average hourly wage of $30.77. Oklahoma’s average hourly wage rose 0.7% compared to the previous month, but is 1.2% lower than the previous year.

Seasonally adjusted payroll employment in Oklahoma increased 2.5% over the previous year, compared to a 4% increase for the U.S.

Oklahoma’s trend line closely matches that of the U.S. when it comes to employment in leisure and hospitality and federal government jobs. Leisure and hospitality jobs have steadily increased for the last decade before a sharp decline when the pandemic struck, followed by a steeply rising recovery, with Oklahoma at 10.5% slightly outpacing the U.S. at 10.4%.

Federal government jobs have remained fairly steady for the last decade aside from a quick spike in 2020, coming back to 3% for Oklahoma and 2% for the U.S. in September 2021. Oklahoma just barely outpaces the U.S. in local government jobs, with the state at 13.1% and the U.S. at 9.5%.

When it comes to state jobs, Oklahoma has shown a steady downhill trend. In 2010, the state mirrored the national percentage; by September 2021, the share of state jobs in Oklahoma’s workforce had been whittled down to 3.4%, compared to the U.S. percentage of 4.8%.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics shows Oklahoma saw an 11% increase in leisure and hospitality employment for September 2021 compared to the previous year, but a scant 0.2% increase in manufacturing employment.

Information jobs are down 2.2% from the previous year, and government jobs overall held steady with no change.

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