Economists at this week’s 2017 Oklahoma Economic Outlook Conference held by Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City offered optimism about the future of the state’s energy industry. They indicated the recent increase in energy prices should lead employment in the energy sector to stabilize and increase slightly in the coming year.
“Oil prices have rebounded from their recent lows with the rebalancing of oil demand and supply,” said Dan Rickman, OSU Economist and Regents Professor of Economics and Oklahoma Gas and electric Services Chair in Regional Economic Analysis.
“Increased supply responses by oil producers to further price increases though will cause oil prices to stay within a narrow range near the current level in the upcoming year,” he cautioned. Still, Rickman projected that the end of the slide in energy will turn Oklahoma’s economy onto a path of growth.
As for other sectors of employment in Oklahoma, Rickman believes the strongest growth will be in construction, educational services and leisure and hospitality services. He said there will likely be continued employment losses for the manufacturing sectors though by smaller numbers than in the previous year.
The level of total non-farm Oklahoma employment in 2017 is expected to average 0.4 percent higher than 2016, which would put it back on par with the average level of 2015. However, this is still well below the expected national employment growth of 1.2 percent.
Rickman said the strongest growth is forecast for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area followed by the Tulsa area. Otherwise, employment expected to continue to decline outside those two major metro areas.
The conference is hosted each December by the Center for Applied Economic Research in OSU’s Spears School of Business. This year’s conference, held at the Metro Technology Centers at the Springlake Campus in Oklahoma City, included presentations on the future of aerospace and its importance in Oklahoma. In addition, the featured speakers addressed national and state economic conditions.