Oklahoma business conditions worsen, survey shows
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 3:05 AM
A leading economic indicator for the state fell in December but still points to growth in the months ahead, according to a report released Wednesday by Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
Oklahoma's Business Conditions Index sank to 52.1 from 56.1 in November. The gauge, taken from a survey of businesses, is derived from new orders, production or sales, employment, inventories and delivery lead time.
A number greater than 50 signals expansion in the next three to six months, and a number less than 50 points to economic contraction.
Oklahoma expanded its labor force over the past year, which is a good signal as people entered the labor market in hopes of finding work, said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton's Economic Forecasting Group, in a phone interview. That wasn't the case at the U.S. level, as many states saw their labor force shrink dramatically as people became discouraged and left the labor market, he said.
"Despite growth in the labor force by approximately 42,000, Oklahoma added jobs at a pace that reduced its unemployment rate significantly over the past year, Goss said in written comments. "The labor force equals employed plus unemployed workers.
"Since the national economic recovery began in July 2009, Oklahoma gained almost 12,000 manufacturing jobs. Our surveys over the past several months point to positive job and economic gains for the first half of 2013."
Within the survey's nine-state Mid-America region, Oklahoma along with Minnesota and North Dakota expanded their nonfarm payrolls at a pace that significantly exceeded the national rate, according to the report. The region's other states - Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota - registered slower nonfarm job growth than the nation as a whole.
Oklahoma's confidence index, which is separate from the business conditions index, rose to 54.3 for the month from 46.7 in November. It may have reflected the belief that the "fiscal cliff" would be avoided, Goss said.
He noted that Oklahoma's energy sector is still strong, and housing also has turned around.
The overall business conditions index for the nine-state Mid-America region rose to 49.5 from November's 48.0 and October's 46.5, but remained below growth-neutral for the fifth time in six months.
The index continues to point to slightly negative to zero growth for the region in the next three to six months, but still no recession, according to the report.
Original Print Headline: Growth forecast in state's economy
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466