Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tulsa, OKC rank high for job recovery

Tulsa and Oklahoma City are among 24 metropolitan areas that gained jobs in each of the past four quarters, according to a report released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Strong gains in manufacturing helped contribute to the Tulsa metro's improved jobless rate at the end of last year.

That encouraging news is part of the March MetroMonitor, which tracks the economic recovery in the nation's 100 largest metro areas through the fourth quarter 2011.

The reports look at economic performance using several key indicators, including changes in employment, unemployment, output and the housing price index.

Overall, the report found that widespread economic growth continued in the 100 largest metros in the fourth quarter - just at a slower pace. The nation's recovery also continued to be uneven.

The big drivers of recovery nationwide have been the manufacturing, high-tech and government sectors, Howard Wial, a Brookings fellow and co-author of the report, said in a phone interview.

The rate of manufacturing job growth slowed every quarter last year, which actually is typical during a recovery, Wial said. In the early stages of a recovery, manufacturing grows quickly, then slows and subsequently experiences some periods of growth for places that specialize in manufacturing.

The manufacturing slowdown probably portends slower future growth for some areas, though not necessarily Tulsa or Oklahoma City, Wial said. But it could be troubling for places such as Detroit or Youngstown, Ohio.

The Tulsa area saw manufacturing employment growth of more than 10 percent between the first quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with nationwide manufacturing employment growth of 1.5 percent over that same period.

"Even though Tulsa is not a big manufacturing center, manufacturing is growing extremely strongly, and that is contributing to its strong recovery," Wial said.

Oklahoma City's manufacturing employment growth during this period expanded between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Overall, Oklahoma City also was included among those metros that have regained more than half of the jobs lost between its pre-recession high and post-recession low.

Over the past two years, manufacturing has grown 16.6 percent in Tulsa and 8.4 percent in Oklahoma City, Wial noted.

"I was surprised at the turnaround overall in government employment in large metros, especially in state government," Wial said. "Although you don't see that in Tulsa, you do see it in Oklahoma City. I was expecting to see continued job cuts in state government, and that is true in some places. There are many others where it is not true."

Tulsa has seen a loss of government jobs - including federal, state and local positions - during the recovery, which has been a drag on the area's rebound, Wial said.

In the survey's ranking, the metros are divided into five groups of 20, based on whether they are the strongest, second-strongest, middle, second-weakest or weakest. Oklahoma City is categorized among the top 20 strongest performers, and Tulsa is placed in the second-strongest group.

For the fourth quarter, Tulsa's gross metropolitan product grew 0.9 percent, making it No. 19 among the nation's 100 largest metros. Tulsa's gross metropolitan product has grown 7.3 percent since it hit bottom in the third quarter of 2009 compared to 9.2 percent for Oklahoma City and a 6.6 percent U.S. average.

Among other categories, Tulsa ranked No. 21 for its unrevised 6.6 percent unemployment rate in December and No. 34 for its fourth-quarter change in employment.

Metro Tulsa also ranked No. 9 for its 1.6 percent fourth-quarter change in housing prices while Oklahoma City ranked No. 4 for its 2.3 percent change.  

By LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer Published: 3/28/2012 2:24 AM
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