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Areas of Oklahoma Will Struggle to Add Jobs in ’16

The collapse in energy prices (both crude oil and natural gas) will continue to weigh on much of the Oklahoma economy in 2016. Statewide, our projected job loss is -0.6% on a year-over-year basis. The weakness should be widespread but concentrated in a few regions.

The map of job growth below (see a dynamic version here) illustrates the wide range in expected performance across the counties this year.

At the local level, our latest outlook calls for 36 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties to post a job loss this year. Nearly every county along the western edge of Oklahoma and in the Panhandle are expected to lose jobs. The hardest hit are the twelve counties with a projected loss of more than 1% (Texas County in the Panhandle; Nowata in the northeast corner; Woodward, Major, Alfalfa, Kingfisher, and Noble in the northwest and north central; Beckham, Washita, Tillman, and Stephens in the south central; and Seminole in the southeast).

Both Oklahoma County (-0.5%) and Tulsa County (-0.2%), the state’s two largest counties, are expected to lose jobs in 2016. These two counties will largely determine the overall state job growth rate.

Despite the overall weakness, some areas of the state should perform quite well next year. Our outlook calls for 41 counties to post a job gain. Most of the counties expected to post gains are located along a band stretching from Cotton County in the southwest to Delaware County in the northeast.

A total of 14 counties are expected to post only moderate jobs gains of less than 1%, while 27 counties are projected to post a job gain exceeding 1%.

The strongest outlook is for 6 counties with anticipated job gains of more than 3%. This group includes Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Haskell along the eastern edge, and McClain, Beaver, and Love in the south central portion, of the state.

Mark C. Snead is President and Economist at RegionTrack.

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