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Experts say state in step with national economy

By Gregory Potts Published: June 6, 2000
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported that both the Oklahoma City metro area and the state had hit generation-low unemployment rates in April -- 2.1 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.

But on Friday, national statistics were released showing unemployment climbed to 4.1 percent in May from 3.9 percent in April.

That report also said that hiring by U.S. companies in May had fallen for the first time in almost 41/2 years -- signs that the economy might be slowing because of higher interest rates.

No data for May is available for Oklahoma. May's state jobless figures will be released later this month.

So is Oklahoma out of step with the nation? Or will May figures for Oklahoma show the state followed the national trend with rising unemployment?

Lynn Gray, a staff economist at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission -- which compiles the state's labor data -- declined to predict, but he said if Oklahoma is out of step with the national trend, it won't be the first time.

"I've heard statements to the effect that Oklahoma is a bit contrarian to national numbers," Gray said.

For example, the state's frantic oil boom economy of the late 1970s and early 1980s occurred during a national recession. And as the national economy recovered, Oklahoma's economy busted.

However, Gray said he suspects the state's more diversified economy today is more in line with the nation's economy than its oil- and agriculture- dependent economy of the past.

"You would think that as our economy diversifies and becomes more like the nation as a whole, that our economy would tend to more closely follow the economic trends of the nation as a whole," he said.

Larkin Warner, an independent Oklahoma economist, agrees. He said that as both the oil and agriculture sectors were suffering in recent years, the state's economy as a whole continued to grow -- evidence of Oklahoma's growing diversification.

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