Strong job growth in the Oklahoma City area has been the surprise so far this year, even as employment gains slow in Oklahoma and the nation, according to research released Wednesday from Oklahoma State University.
The midyear economic update by OSU research economist Mark Snead shows annual job gains in Oklahoma City near 3 percent for the first half of the year. The full-year forecast calls for 13,900 new jobs, a gain of 2.4 percent. "Oklahoma City, if you believe the data, is on fire,” said Snead, speaking at the Oklahoma City Economic Roundtable at Rose State College in Midwest City. Snead said the expected drag on the area's economy from the twin closures of General Motors Corp. and Dayton Tire last year hasn't materialized. Many of those workers took early retirement or retirement, while others are enrolled in training programs. About 300 General Motors employees remain in the company's Jobs Bank with full pay and benefits until September. "We thought manufacturing would have a damaging impact, but it isn't showing up in the data,” Snead said. "If you drive around Oklahoma City, the visible economy is matching the data.” Monty Evans, manager of research and information systems for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, said his economic forecast for the city isn't as optimistic as Snead's 2.4 percent. Still, Evans forecasts metropolitan area job growth at 1.9 percent for all of 2007. "We have seen some pretty phenomenal employment growth in the OKC metro during the first half of the year,” Evans said in an e-mail. "If the employment numbers we're seeing from (the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission) are to be believed — and I think they are — the OKC metro has been experiencing year-over-year job growth in the range of 3 percent. That is very strong growth.” The rosy picture in Oklahoma City is tempered by slowing employment growth in the nation and the rest of Oklahoma. The state is expected to grow by 21,600 jobs for all of 2007, a growth rate of 1.