The Pathetic Case of Oklahoma Jobs
Oklahoma establishment employment reached a monthly average high of 1,677.8 million in 2015, but dropped to 1.652 million jobs in 2016. The annual rate of growth rate since 1990 is 1.2 percent, not great but not bad compared to the national average and other states. From 2000 to 2016 the annual rate of growth dropped to .59 percent, a fifty percent decline. Oklahoma jobs declined during both of the Bush recessions, which came after the first quarter of 2001 and the second recession after the third quarter of 2008. Jobs have recovered but it was 2013 before Oklahoma jobs reached their 2008 level.
Every county in Oklahoma voted for Trump. Since Trump promised jobs that might be one reason. While he has yet to follow through with any more than talk, the problem with Oklahoma jobs shows up in the most glaring fashion over the last four years from 2012 to 2016. Over those four years monthly establishment employment was up a grand total of 38 thousand jobs at a .58 percent growth rate. Downright pitiful.
Goods production includes mining and mining related jobs like oil drilling, construction and manufacturing. Mining had its largest employment in 2014 with 62.1 thousand jobs, but it was still less than 2 percent of statewide establishment employment. It dropped to 44 thousand in 2016. Construction added 7 thousand jobs from 2012 to 2016 while manufacturing employment dropped 7 thousand canceling the construction gains.
To be fair the decline in goods production employment over the last four years comes as part of a long term trend of more than two decades. Since 1990 goods production lost 4.3 percent of statewide employment; since 2000 it lost 2.5 percent. However the entire 2.5 percent loss came in the four years, 2012 to 2016.
The Service Industries with a net job loss from 2012 to 2016
Important parts of the Oklahoma service industry, representing slightly more than 30 percent of statewide employment, did poorly. Service industries did have a few more jobs, although a few services lost jobs over the four year period. The information services lost a thousand jobs. It has publishing including software and Internet publishing, broadcasting, telecommunications, data processing and a few more. The total of Oklahoma financial activities including banking, credit and real estate services added just one thousand jobs.
The combination of professional and business support services had a net increase of a 1 thousand jobs, an especially poor performance for a sector with just over 11 percent of statewide employment in 2012. Professional services has law firms, accounting firms, architecture and engineering firms, computer design and relation services, management and technical consulting services, advertising and related services, but these services added only 3 thousand jobs, which were offset by a loss of two thousand jobs in business support services. Professional services need people with college degree skills, but Oklahoma College graduates will have to leave Oklahoma to find these jobs.
The worst failure to create jobs comes with health care. Over the four year period 2012 to 2016 Oklahoma health care employment increased at an annual growth of .85 percent, when the national average over the same four years was 2.36 percent. Total health care job growth over the four years comes to just 7 thousand new jobs. Slightly less than half the jobs came in services that actually provide patient care: physicians services, outpatient care, hospital services, and nursing and nursing home care. The other half came in social assistance jobs mostly non-profit family services, community food and housing and emergency relief services.
If we combine the 15.1 percent of statewide employment in goods production jobs with the 31.5 percent of statewide jobs in information services, financial activities, business and professional services, private education and health care we have a combined loss of 7 thousand jobs for 46.6 percent of statewide employment.
The Service Industries with a net job gain from 2012 to 2016
The remaining 53.4 percent of statewide employment comes in wholesale and retail trade, leisure and hospitality, repair and maintenance services, personal services, non-profit associations, and government. Wholesale trade was up only a thousand jobs, but retail trade did well among services with 11 thousand new jobs. Transportation and warehousing added 5 thousand new jobs, but modal transportation did poorly: airlines lost a thousand jobs, trucking added only a thousand jobs.
Leisure and hospitality added 17 thousand jobs with 13.3 thousand of these jobs at full service and fast food restaurants. The highest annual growth rate in jobs for any Oklahoma industry over the four years came in full service restaurants: 2.63 percent, more than four times the statewide growth rate.
Repair and maintenance services, and personal services had no new jobs over the four years. Non-profit associations added a little over 4 thousand jobs and government had a net increase of 6.5 thousand jobs. It was a net increase because federal and state government jobs declined while local government employment was up almost 8 thousand job over the four years.
Oklahoma ranks 45th in statewide job growth over the four years 2012 to 2016. While the monthly average increase was only 38 thousand jobs, the two metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, had 53 thousand new jobs over the four years. That means the rural areas that make up the balance of state employment lost 15 thousand jobs. All of the 7 thousand new health care jobs were in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the net change in health care in the rural balance of state was zero.
The state legislature has apparently cut state income taxes along with corresponding cuts in services, especially education. Nothing assures Oklahoma residents will return their tax cut to the Oklahoma economy; the poor job performance suggests these funds left the state. The state legislature also had the opportunity to bring in federal dollars with Medicaid expansion offered during the Obama administration. Additional health care spending would create jobs and health services for state residents, especially the rural poor, but the legislature threw them away. Oil exploration creates less than 2 percent of statewide jobs for the environmental dangers it creates.
Just over 45 percent of new jobs over the last four years came in Leisure and hospitality and almost 80 percent of those jobs came in restaurant occupations such as cooks, waiters, waitresses, and combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food. The later occupation, food preparation and serving workers, has the highest employment of all restaurant and food preparation jobs in the state of Oklahoma, 34,520. That is up from 28,650 in 2012, which equals a 4.77 percent annual rate of growth compared to the .58 percent rate for statewide employment mentioned above. These jobs have a median wage in Oklahoma of $18,080 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Occupational Employment files. It is the lowest median wage of 710 occupations reported for the state of Oklahoma; dead last.