Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates Oklahoma came close to a recession last year due to stagnant energy prices.
Numbers out Wednesday show Oklahoma saw just 0.1 percent gross domestic product growth during the third quarter of 2015. Only Alaska, North Dakota, and West Virginia saw worse numbers – with negative GDP growth. Oklahoma was on par with Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, and New York at GDP growth below 1 percent.
Oklahoma saw a 2.4 percent decrease in GDP during the second quarter of 2015 – April through June – having the worst performance of all states that quarter.
The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies writes there’s no universal definition of when a recession starts, but it’s generally accepted after two straight quarters of negative GDP growth.
Again, energy played a major role in slowing Oklahoma's economy, the bureau said. The energy sector shrank by 1.5 percent in Oklahoma in the third quarter, followed by declines in durable goods manufacturing and real estate. Growth in agriculture, construction and retail trade helped offset some of that reduction and put the state barely into positive territory for economic growth in the third quarter.
Nationally, economic growth by state slowed to an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the third quarter, down from 3.8 percent growth in the second quarter of 2015, the bureau said.
The University of Central Oklahoma’s College of Business dean Mickey Hepner said other, state-level economic data confirms his opinion the state is in a recession. University of Oklahoma economist Robert Dauffenbach says he’s worried about a one-two punch for Oklahoma should national economic numbers start to slip.
The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the nation added 242,000 jobs in February, with an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. Even though thousands have lost their jobs in the energy sector, Oklahoma’s jobless rate still hovers around 4 percent.
That's a long way from a jobless rate of about 7 percent before the state's oil bust in the mid-1980s, said Chad Wilkerson, vice president and branch executive at the Oklahoma City office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
"Most likely things are not as good as they were in the third quarter," said Wilkerson, who noted a drop in agriculture from lower cattle prices.
Still, some bright spots remain, he said. Commercial banks in the state are profitable, with fewer than 5 percent failing to show a profit last year. Office vacancies and unsold homes have ticked up but remain relatively low, Wilkerson said.
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