The Duncan Banner

January 2, 2013

DAEDF: 'Labor pool has increased'

rig count is down; more people employed

Megan Bristow
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — As the new year begins, Oklahomans have a reason to be thankful. The economical growth of Oklahoma unemployment continues to outpace the country.

In a recent issue of the ‘Oklahoma Economist,’ published by the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the unemployment indicators continue to be better than the national average.

“Oklahoma’s payroll employment was up 2.7 percent from a year ago in October, or more than 42,000 total jobs,” Chad Wilkerson, Oklahoma city branch executive, vice president and economist at the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “This compares to only 1.4 percent in the nation. the state is no above pre-recession employment levels, unlike the nation, which still has nearly three percent fewer jobs than in January 2008.”

“One of the great things about Stephens County and the state of Oklahoma is that we have recovered sooner than other states after the meltdown in 2008,” Duncan Chamber of Commerce President Chris Deal said. “We were hit pretty hard but we have recovered a lot faster.”

Wilkerson said the manufacturing industry has led the recent employment increase. It rose 5.1 percent or nearly 7,000 jobs statewide. This is good news for Duncan and Stephens County, where a leading industry continues to be manufacturing.

“In the latest report that we have, our unemployment rate is 4.4 percent,” Lyle Roggow, President of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation, said. “Roughly, a year ago we were at about 5.3 percent unemployment.”

Roggow said the labor pool, the number of those employed and those not employed but actively searching for work has also increased.

“When you start to compare where we were a year ago where we are today, last November our labor force was 22,877,” he said. “That is everybody who is employed and not employed. To this point, our labor force is 23, 683.”

That is about 806 more people in the Stephens County labor force. Despite the increase in labor force, unemployment continues to drop.

“A year ago, we had 21, 730 gainfully employed,” Roggow said. “One year later, we have 22, 639 people.  We have about 909 more people working up to this point than we did the previous year.”

Roggow said this translates to about 1,044 people unemployed in Stephens County compared to about 1,147 last year — a difference of about 103.

“We did quite well in 2012,” Roggow said. “What is going to happen in 2013? There are a lot of unknowns out there. Once we get a better handle on what is needed to support the oil and gas sector, then we will be better able to respond to that.”

The manufacturing sector in Duncan, which largely supports the statewide and nationwide oil, gas and energy sectors, makes up large portion of Duncan’s economy.

A component of the nationwide economy that could have an effect on Duncan’s manufacturing industry is the diminishing rig count. The effects of this will come to light more throughout the first quarter of 2013.

“Rig count is down to 1,763 active rigs in the United States,” Roggow said. “That is down 244 from last year. That tightens up the need for service type businesses to support that. Until the rig number starts to climb again, that puts challenges on our companies in our community.”

Deal said that with the fiscal cliff situation that has been plaguing legislators, unemployment could increase both in the state and the nation. However, he said the Oklahoma economy is resilient and they use cutting edge technology in the manufacturing industry to support the oil, gas and energy sectors.

Despite the unknowns of 2013, DAEDF and the Duncan chamber will continue to work to bring new businesses in, which will create additional opportunities to lower the unemployment rate.

“We try to make the business climate favorable for people to be attracted to the community.”

Both organizations work with partner organizations to make sure that Duncan appeals to both the businesses they bring in and the people that will be and currently work in the area.@