Here’s something you don’t see much of in the world outside China these days: metropolitan Oklahoma City has a labor shortage. Household-based data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the number of employed residents of metro OKC, including the self-employed, show an increase of 20,000 (3.7%) year-over-year in July 2012. Strong labor force growth of 15,200 (2.6%) was not enough to prevent the unemployment rate from falling below 5.0%. While household average incomes are relatively low here, their current trajectory shows improved bargaining power for workers, with a 4.7% year-over-year gain in the second quarter according to Moody’s Economy.com. The second quarter median existing home price here, meanwhile, is low at $139,100 and down 2.9% from a year earlier according to the National Association of Realtors.
According to Current Employment Survey (CES) data from the BLS, total non-farm payroll employment increased by 17,000 (3.0%) from July 2011 to July 2012. The private sector gain was even larger at 18,400 (4.1%), offset by a decrease of 1,400 (1.3%) in the public sector. Private sector employment gains are widespread. Among the industrial sectors, Manufacturing gained 2,300 jobs (7.1%) in the year to July, Mining and Logging increased by 1,800 (10.4%), Wholesale Trade increased by 800 (3.4%) and Transportation and Utilities rose by 300 (1.9%). There were substantial employment increases, as well, among office-based sectors, with Financial Activities gaining 800 jobs (2.5%) and Professional and Business Services adding 5,800 (7.9%). Included in the latter is an increase of 1,400 (9.5%) in the Employment Services industry, which includes temporary workers, an increase of 800 (13.8%) in Management of Companies and Enterprises, headquarters establishments.
While income is rising fast, according to Moody’s Economy.com, the population is growing at a national average rate of about 1.1% per-year (about 14,500 people here). Even so the growth of consumer-driven sectors is enormous. CES data for July show year-over-year increases of 5,600 (9.3%) in Retail Trade and 4,800 (8.1%) in Leisure and Hospitality. Only the Construction sector remained weak, with a loss of 1,700 jobs (6.5%). The American City Business Journals ranked Oklahoma City first among U.S. metro areas for having a strong economy in September, because “workers’ earnings have grown faster in Oklahoma City than in any other market during the past year (11.9%), and the unemployment rate (4.8%) is lower than anywhere but Omaha.” “Strong job growth and
an active consumer base have companies outside the region taking notice,” according to Texas Real Estate Business. “Having a successful NBA franchise and consistently sold out games have attracted more retailers to the city…The city ranked third in retail employment growth in 2011.”