Economist Larkin Warner sees flat performance in Oklahoma City data

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 16-Dec-2010

A leading Oklahoma economist and the state’s recently-elected chief executive have shared rather sobering sketches of economic data with CapitolBeatOK.

In a recent interview, Governor-elect Mary Fallin told CapitolBeatOK she is concerned to be hearing that in Oklahoma City, “the real estate market and expansion in certain sectors are coming to a grinding halt.”  In that Dec. 4 discussion, Fallin expressed concern about federal policies and other issues she believes are holding back the local, state and regional economy.

In an interview this week, Larkin Warner, a respected economist and retired Oklahoma State University professor, seemed to confirm some of Fallin’s concerns. Like other analysts, Warner said, “We know that we have been doing well relative to the nation as a whole during these difficult times.” He continued, however, saying that for the sake of argument and analysis: “Let’s just forget about the nation and think only of ourselves in isolation.”  

In the seven-county Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area, he noted, “the October employment data for 2008, 2009 and and 2010 are 581,400; 557,100; and 565,100. We are now 17,300 below where we were two years ago. Nearly all sectors have lost jobs between October 2008 and October 2010, with the lost being greatest (-6,300) in manufacturing.” One positive area of growth was in health care – not doctors, but support personnel.

Warner continued, “In those same two years, the number of unemployed in the OKCMSA rose from 22,920 to 36,331. The unemployment rate went from 4 percent to 6.4 percent. During the same period, the labor force in the MSA dropped by 5,628. If these people had all remained in the area’s labor force as unemployed, the October 2010 unemployment rate would have been 7.4 percent instead of 6.4 percent.”

Warner continued his summary of economic data, saying, “Some people have been having a rough time of it. The average number of people per month receiving food stamps in the MSA rose from 126,000 to 173,000 from Fiscal Year 2008 to FY 2010.”

Concluding his overview of the Oklahoma City MSA data, Warner observed, “We don’t have current personal income estimates for this MSA. The latest is for 2008. Statewide estimates are available on a quarterly basis, with the second quarter of this year the latest. Second quarter data for the whole state are: $135.7 billion (2008), $132.0 billion (2009) and $135.2 billion (2010). So, we appear be just about back where we were two years ago in terms of personal income.”