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Report notes changes in Oklahoma’s employment landscape

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Declines have been noted in recent years in the number of jobs associated with Oklahoma’s energy and energy services industry. (File photo)

About 1.7 million people are currently employed in Oklahoma, roughly the same number of employees in 2019 at the start of the pandemic, but career paths for many have changed due to changes in various industries, perhaps most particularly in the energy industry.

According to a report released this week by the Kansas City Regional Federal Reserve Bank, changes have been noted over the past three years — and even in previous years — in the total number of people employed in 52 Oklahoma industries. .

By far the largest decline in total employment was seen in the sector that encompasses oil and gas service work performed on a contract basis. According to the report, there are approximately 12,300 fewer such jobs in Oklahoma than there were in 2019, representing a 42% decline. Other employment in the sector, mostly related to non-contract oil and gas extraction, fell by about 4,000, or 21%.

In both segments of Oklahoma’s important energy industry, employment numbers have actually declined for most of the past decade, the Fed noted.

“So despite strong job gains over the past year, overall mining/energy sector employment in the state remains more than 40% lower than it was a decade ago. , a decline of nearly 28,000 jobs,” the report said.

Other industries added jobs.

Transportation and warehousing companies, for example, have added 16,000 jobs since 2019, representing a 47% increase.

Employment gains were also recorded in the retail sector, in the restaurant sector, in Indian-tribe-owned businesses, in employment services, accounting and payroll services, food manufacturing, credit intermediation and related activities, building equipment services and insurance related activities. .

Job losses were recorded in machinery manufacturing, civil and heavy engineering construction, nursing and residential care, welding and metal fabrication, information/media, waste management and local administration excluding tribal administration.

Unfortunately, many of the industry sectors that have created jobs are not paying as well as those that have lost jobs.

“While knowing which industries are growing or shrinking the fastest is helpful in understanding current trends in Oklahoma’s economy, it’s also helpful to know how much those industries pay, relative to annual salary. 2021 average in-state $51,350,” the report said. . “Overall, the fastest growing industries in the state since 2019 are paying below average wages, while those that are shrinking the most are paying above average wages.”

Among Oklahoma’s 10 industries that created the most jobs over the past three years, the weighted average annual salary (taking into account the size of sectors) in 2021 was $43,594, below the overall state average. However, half of the industries paid above the state average, and two — transportation/warehousing and food manufacturing — paid only slightly below average. The inclusion of lower-paying retail and restaurant jobs, and the larger size of those two industries, “pull the average down” for the group, the Fed said. Additionally, three of the state’s fastest-growing industries since 2019 — accounting, banking and insurance — pay more than $68,000 a year on average, more than 30% more than the state average. .

Looking at the 10 industries in Oklahoma experiencing the fastest contraction since 2019, the average annual salary in 2021 was just over $56,000, well above the overall state average. Only three – local government, nursing homes and other private service jobs – paid below-average salaries. Of the rest, jobs in the energy sector pay particularly high wages, and the average wage in the manufacturing, construction, and information industries also exceeded the state average by a significant margin. .

The longer-term trend of high productivity in these industries – reflected in their higher pay – means that sustained job growth is likely to be difficult, as fewer workers are needed to do the same amount of work, noted the Fed.

“While nearly the same number of people are now employed in the state as in 2019, the industries in which many of them work have changed,” said Chad Wilkerson, branch manager, vice president and economist. of the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve. Bank of Kansas City. “In some sectors, employment is still more than 10% below pre-pandemic levels, while jobs in other industries are up significantly from three years ago.”

The report can be viewed online at kansascityfed.org/oklahomacity/oklahoma-economist.