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Economist: Tulsa's Up-And-Down Jobs Recovery Is 'Low Quality' So Far


Oklahoma wasn’t hit as hard by job losses in the COVID-driven downturn as the rest of the country, but its job recovery hasn’t been nearly as fast, either.

More than half of U.S. jobs lost from February to April have been recovered. Oklahoma has regained less than half. Tulsa is doing even worse, with a little more than one-third recovered.

Speaking Friday at the Tulsa Regional Chamber's State of the Economy virtual event, economist and RegionTrack President Mark Snead said job recovery has also been uneven. Oklahoma roared back at first, getting back more than 50,000 jobs in May and June, but job gains have been slower or negative since. Tulsa’s recovery has been even more up and down.

"This is a real concern for us. What it’s really suggesting to us is that the recovery surge the state was experiencing coming out of the slowdown has probably been mostly exhausted," Snead said.

Snead said of roughly 35,000 jobs Tulsa lost in the downturn, it’s recovered a net of 12,805, but the hospitality sector alone has recovered almost 14,000 jobs.

"What that is suggesting is all other sectors outside hospitality have actually shrunk since the recovery began, which is why I say this is generally what we would consider to be very low quality in terms of a recovery, and Tulsa’s numbers match the state numbers very closely. So, this is not a Tulsa issue, this is a state issue," Snead said.

Snead said industries with higher-paying jobs, like manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services are struggling to regain what they lost. His assessment is similar to a recent one by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s chief analyst.

Snead expects job growth will pick up in mid-2021 as oil and gas recover, but he projects broad economic recovery for the state and Tulsa are about a year off.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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