Economic Activity Up 0.7 Percent for State
Wolfe, Lou Anne, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Oklahoma economic activity during the first quarter ended March 31 was up 0.7 percent from the first quarter of 1990, and additional gains are forecast for the second quarter, according to the General Business Index report released Thursday by Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
In Oklahoma City, first-quarter economic activity was up 2.7 percent from the first quarter of 1990 and up 1.6 percent from the previous quarter, the 1990 fourth quarter.
"Oklahoma should continue its `slow growth' trends of the past four years," said Craig Knutson, staff economist for Southwestern Bell.
"While many complain of our anemic growth rates over the past four years, it is critical to remember that economic restructuring, which is an evolutionary process, takes time." Tulsa's economic activity was up 0.6 percent from the first quarter of 1990 but dropped 0.1 percent from the previous quarter, the report said.
The General Business Index, produced by Southwestern Bell and the University of Oklahoma, tracks the activity of 25 economic variables each quarter.
Knutson said the first quarter was mired with uncertainty.
"The (Persian) Gulf crisis, which thankfully was short-lived, was the primary culprit in plunging the United States into its first recession in almost eight years," he said.
A survey of 35 national economists by USA Today newspaper, however, showed that 63 percent believe the recession ended in the second quarter, Knutson said.
Of the six subsectors used in the index to analyze the state's economic condition, three posted gains and three declined.
The manufacturing subsector grew 4.7 percent in the first quarter, the report said.
Oklahoma manufacturing employment was up 0.8 percent from the first quarter of 1990, while the nation's manufacturing employment base was down by 800,000 jobs or 4 percent.
In the near-term, the Oklahoma manufacturing sector should continue its slow improvement in employment and earnings growth, Knutson said.
Led by increases in wage and salary employment, bank net income, services employment and personal income, the general subsector was up 0.7 percent from the 1990 first quarter, the report said.
Bankruptcies, unemployment and the bank stock index all moved negatively.
"In an economy that continues to move more sideways than up and down, it is common to find indicators canceling one another," Knutson said. "The `two steps forward, one step back' approach to economic growth does require
patience and perseverance." The construction subsector showed the largest decline, down 3.2 percent compared to the first quarter of 1990. All four indicators in the subsector were negative, the report said.
"The first quarter was devastating for the construction industry, with starts and permits falling precipitously," Knutson said.
"The only positive sign being reported was that the remodeling market was booming, due primarily to our inability to sell what we had. …