By Brent Kisling
Dear Local Economic Development Leader,
If you were on this month’s Commerce Zoom call you heard me talk about the transition underway right now in our Oklahoma workforce. People are changing jobs all over the place. Here are some of the statistics I shared on the call that you might want to share with your local employers just so they can see the numbers and understand what they are dealing with:
2.7% unemployment rate still ranks us 11th in the nation. This means our employers are doing a better job of keeping our citizens employed that the businesses in 39 other states. This also means that in our state, we are not paying people to sit on the sideline and watch. Those who want a job are typically able to find one.
Normally in Oklahoma, about 1/3 of the job separations in a month are involuntary…meaning they were asked to leave. Right now, in Oklahoma, only 1/5 of the separations are involuntary.
In March of this year, we had 146,000 job openings in the state which is the most in one month in state history. This was 27% more than February which ranked us third in the nation in job opening increases. It was also 40% higher than in March of 2021 ranking us 17th in the growth of job openings year over year. Businesses are adding jobs and when separations occur, new employees are needed.
Also in March, we had 94,000 people who were hired into jobs which was 24,000 more than in March of 2021. This ranked us 4th among states in the growth of people hired year over year.
As you can tell, we have a lot of jobs available right now in Oklahoma and we are doing a great job connecting people to those jobs…we just need more people.
Even though the Department of Commerce was well taken care of in this year’s Legislative Session, probably our biggest disappointment was the fact that our $10 million Talent Attraction Campaign was left unfunded. We are hopeful that we can find other ways to tell the Oklahoma story right now because here is the other big number to remember…
Oklahoma is the 11th fastest growing population state in the nation right now since the beginning of the pandemic. We have bundled up this thing called Freedom and sold it to the rest of the nation and they are buying it big time. We just need to keep the foot on the gas.
One way we have done this lately is through a program designed to “Take Care of Our Own.” It is called the Oklahoma Innovation Expansion Program and we just recently made the announcement of our 3rd Annual 2022 Awards. The program is designed to assist companies as they look to make investments in new innovative services or products that will result in a capital expenditure of over $50,000 and additional jobs. The growth has to be a net benefit to the state and it is only for companies that have been in existence in our state for at least the past few years. The program is delivered in partnership with the Oklahoma Finance Authorities and the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. Here is how this year’s program shook out:
122 Oklahoma legacy companies were awarded this year
$9 million awarded that will be leveraged with $54.9 million in capital expenditures from the companies
756 new jobs will be created
We plan to reopen the program next spring, so if you have companies in your area that you think might qualify, please send them my way.
Our Main Street Program is continuing to grow and make an impact across the state as well. Thanks to all of you who attended the Upper Floor Housing Workshop we hosted last month in Tahlequah. We plan to host this event annually for any community that is interested. But we are also expanding our efforts to transition main street businesses to offer e-commerce options for sale, especially as gas prices increase and people are less willing to travel to buy things. This effort began for us during the pandemic and has continued to grow over the past few years.
This is the time of year for your Dept of Commerce to hit the road attending trade shows and industry visits. Recently we have been to the Clean Power Convention in San Antonio, the Area Development Consultant Forum in Columbus, OH, the JEC World Composites Show in France, the Aerospace Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Americas Show in Dallas, and the National Truck Equipment Association Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. In the next couple of months, we will be at Select USA in Washington DC, the Farnborough Air Show in England, and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
I also want to thank all of our partners who assisted us with hosting companies during the PGA Championship in Tulsa last month. We had 39 out-of-state companies attend as well as 55 Oklahoma legacy companies that are working on growth projects. We had 45 partners who assisted us in hosting the event and we have dozens of new projects to follow up on since the last ball fell in the hole on 18. It was an exhausting week, but I want to especially thank Jennifer Springer and Amy Blackburn for their leadership putting the entire event together. It will reap rewards for our state for years to come.
If there is anything I can be doing to assist you, please let me know. We love your partnership on helping to create an environment where economic growth will occur.