Woodward, Okla. —
The Oklahoma economy has made some long strides over the past few years, according to State Secretary of Commerce Dave Lopez.
Lopez was in Woodward on Wednesday to speak at the Northwest Oklahoma Alliance (NwOA) quarterly meeting.
NwOA is comprised of community and business leaders from across Northwest Oklahoma who have a common goal of promoting economic growth and development across the region.
OKLAHOMA'S ECONOMIC STATISTICS
In his presentation, Lopez shared some statistics about the state's economy which his office had compiled as part of Gov. Mary Fallin's "half-time report," as she is halfway through her 4-year term.
The Secretary of Commerce began by looking at employment numbers.
"Where we rank in overall employment growth from 2011 to now is 4th out of all the states," he said. "First is North Dakota, which as I've said before I think we should get credit for because it's all Oklahoma companies doing business up there. Then it's Utah, Texas and then us."
In 2012 alone, Lopez said that Oklahoma's workforce grew by 37,000 people.
"When we're looking just at labor force numbers and how much they grew, we're 7th in the nation. And that's by the overall number, not based on the state's population, but just the sheer amount of growth in the workforce," he said.
That growth helps to keep unemployment levels in Oklahoma among some of the lowest in the nation.
"Overall Oklahoma is at 5.1 percent unemployment and the nation is at 7.8 percent," Lopez said, adding that "for states with 2 million or more in population, we're number 1 with lowest unemployment."
He said job growth has also helped the state recover from the recession.
"Oklahoma is one out of only 5 states whose job numbers have grown back to where they were before the recession," he said.
The business and industry activity in Northwest Oklahoma has played a key role in those job numbers, Lopez said.
"When we're counting up these statewide numbers, we know that in part it is your region that's setting the pace," he said as he addressed the NwOA members. "I don't think our state would be at 5.1 percent unemployment if it wasn't for the fact that I think, out of the 17 counties in your area, if we extend it far south enough to include Canadian County, 15 counties have under 4 percent unemployment rates."
And job numbers aren't the only numbers that are up in Oklahoma, Lopez said.
He said the state saw a 9 percent increase in median household income in 2011, which were the latest figures he had available. He noted this meant Oklahoma had "the largest growth" in household income for that year, making the state "a far outlier," especially when nationwide the median household income saw a slight drop in 2011.