Oklahoma City’s budget year is off to a good start, a sharp reversal from this time last year.
The picture is cloudier for working people, though, based on the latest federal economic reports for the metro area.
The July sales tax check, the first of the new fiscal year, was for $35.1 million — up 5.7 percent over last year and well above the budget target of 3.9 percent growth. That’s a sharp departure from July 2013, when sales tax collections began the year down 3.4 percent.
Sales tax is the biggest single contributor to the budget and the primary source of cash for day-to-day services such as police and fire protection.
Oklahoma City expects overall sales tax growth of 2.8 percent this year, with higher collections from July to September and in January to March, said Doug Dowler, city budget director.
Based on those projections, the city council adopted a $1.1 billion budget that adds 92 positions. That brings the city’s authorized workforce to 4,672, up 2 percent.
The latest federal economic reports show metro-area employment on the upswing, but much of the growth is in lower-paying jobs.
The metro area added 3,600 jobs between April and May, bringing total employment to 626,600, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But employment in mining and logging — in Oklahoma, primarily the oil and gas industry — was flat for the month and down 2.9 percent from the same time last year. Service-providing jobs grew by 4,000 for the month and showed a 2.9 percent increase over May 2013.
The metro-area unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent while an indicator of how much consumers have to spend, average weekly earnings, was down 1.7 percent from last May, Dowler said.
“So if you put them together you have more people working, but making less money on average,” Dowler wrote in an e-mail.
Quoting the city’s consulting economist, Russell Evans of Oklahoma City University’s Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, Dowler wrote that “it looks like the mix of jobs has been changing with more of the jobs on the lower end of the pay scale and fewer jobs at the top end.”
An economic report released last month in Dallas at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting indicated Oklahoma City’s economy is expected to grow 2 percent in 2014 and 2.9 percent in 2015.
The faster-growing Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area in North Carolina is expected to surpass Oklahoma City to become the nation’s 48th biggest metro economy. The report predicted Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate will continue to hover about where it is now.