Report Forecasts Growth for Oklahoma Economy

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Oklahoma turned in a strong economic performance this past year and there are signs of economic strength across critical goods- producing sectors moving into 2013, economist Mark Snead said on Friday.

Snead is president and founder of Oklahoma City-based RegionTrack Inc., a state and local economic forecasting service. While larger states like Texas or California have had the luxury of specific economic reports annually, Snead said RegionTrack is the first company to focus on creating an outlook for Oklahoma.

"We think this will dramatically improve the quality and quantity of information available about economic conditions in all regions of the state," Snead said. "This is unique as it is the first time that we know of that there is going to be dedicated economic coverage for the entire state."

The report will include comprehensive coverage of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas, as well as all 77 counties, Snead said. RegionTrack's first local-area outlook for the metro areas and counties will be released Jan. 15.

Expect a near repeat of 2012 through the next 12 months, though state hiring will likely ease a bit, Snead said in the statewide economic report released Friday.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa have followed different paths to recovery since the economic meltdown of late 2008, Snead said.

"Oklahoma City bounced early," Snead said. "It really never slowed down."

Tulsa, however, struggled for another year. But by 2011, Tulsa was matching Oklahoma City's pace, adding jobs at a 2-percent clip, Snead said.

"Oklahoma continues to outpace the shaky U.S. recovery, posting the second-fastest job growth among the states," Snead said.

However, the energy sector, which has been a steady force in the recovery, shows clear signs of a slowdown, Snead said.

"The job numbers look like they have peaked," Snead said.

Snead anticipates a slowdown in the energy segment.

"It will take a breather," Snead said, citing softness in oil and natural gas prices.

Oklahoma is feeling much less drag from construction and government than most states, Snead said.

"Rural areas of the state are benefiting from key statewide industry trends," Snead said. "Strong labor force gains suggest the pace of job growth can continue through 2013."

The state's 2.7-percent, year-over-year job gain through October ranks second only to oil-driven North Dakota at 5. …