Plummeting Oil Prices Push Oklahoma Into ‘Mini-Recession’, Groundswell For MAPS 4? | KGOU
KGOU

Plummeting Oil Prices Push Oklahoma Into ‘Mini-Recession’, Groundswell For MAPS 4?

Aug 28, 2015

Slumping oil prices have fueled thousands of job losses in big energy states like Oklahoma, which is “gripped by a mini-recession,” economist Mark Snead tells the Journal Record‘s Kirby Lee Davis:

“The notion that Oklahoma has diversified away from oil and gas is, at this point, many, many years away,” he said.

Snead, a formerly of the Federal Reserve and Oklahoma State University who founded Oklahoma City-based economic firm RegionTrack, says Oklahoma lost more than 9,000 energy industry jobs from December through July. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission published similar numbers last month, Davis reports:

“We’re still locked in a pretty good downward trend, and given oil is way below $40 a barrel, we are still looking for job losses in the third quarter and fourth,” said Snead, a former economist with the Federal Reserve and Oklahoma State University.

"The forecasts for energy prices keep falling," says The Journal Record's managing editor Adam Brooks. "Snead says that to some extent, it doesn't really matter how low they go, it's about how long it takes for them to come back."

Snead’s data project Oklahoma’s energy sector losing 13,000 jobs in 2015, Davis writes:

That long-term view exceeds a July forecast by OSU’s Center for Applied Economic Research. That report projected Oklahoma would endure 13,000 direct energy industry job losses by the end of 2016. But that was based on IHS Global Insight projections that West Texas Intermediate prices would slip below $50 per barrel by the first quarter, then climb back to $65 by the end of 2016.

At the time of this posting, U.S. oil was trading at $42.56. Snead thinks oil futures are likely to rebound early in 2016, but he also expects the next wave of energy industry job cuts to hit white-collar workers:

“They will be among the highest wage jobs in the industry and they will be located more frequently in metropolitan areas.”

"There's another forecaster, [Wood Mackenzie's] Skip York, who said the price could stay below $60 a barrel through the end of next year. And whenever prices recover there could a lag time before those jobs come back.

 

Developer Jonathan Dodson is one of the founders of the citizens group MAPS 4 Neighborhoods.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

MAPS 4 MOMENTUM?

Just over two months ago a group calling itself "Maps 4 Neighborhoods" joined Twitter, and started generating buzz about the next proposal in a two-decade series of Metropolitan Area Projects, or MAPS.

The series of sales tax extensions over the last two decades revitalized Bricktown in 1993, made infrastructure improvements to Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2001, and are now focused on "quality-of-life initiatives" like the downtown streetcar system, the public park, and a new convention center after voters passed MAPS 3 in 2009.

"That's an eight-year-cycle, which means we're kind of coming up where we need to plan for the next one. But there's nothing official about renewing this one-cent sales tax. That's just how it's worked so far," Brooks said. "So there's this grassroots group, and they want MAPS 4 to be about other areas of the city. They think there's been a lot of focus on downtown, but there are needs for roads, sidewalks, and safer intersections."

There's not really a solid list of goals from the group yet, but Oklahoma City leaders have been encouraging, according to The Journal Record's Brian Brus:

Councilman James Greiner said he supports MAPS 4 Neighborhoods’ proactive approach rather than residents waiting for their elected officials to set an agenda.

“Anytime that a group of citizens gets together to form some sort of organization to express their opinions, I think it’s a good thing,” said Greiner, who represents northwestern Ward 1. “My constituents have expressed that they’re kind of tired of all the money going downtown and they’d like their roads to be fixed and their parks maintained properly. It keeps coming up.”

. . .

City Councilman Ed Shadid has already expressed support for public health initiatives and public safety improvements. Several residents have spoken at City Council meetings to make similar suggestions.

One of the biggest supporters of MAPS 3 was Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett, and his predecessor Ron Norick led the charge on the original MAPS back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"Cornett said he appreciated their enthusiasm, but I think he kind of put a damper on it because he said he's focused on finishing MAPS 3," Brooks said. "We still don't even know where the new convention center's going to go, and that's a real centerpiece. So there's a lot of other things people have to pay attention to, and we also know that there's a looming possibility of a vote on a new county jail."

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.