Employment Gains Slow in Oklahoma City

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Government and Leisure and Hospitality Lead Recent Job Gains in the Region

By Bill Kitchens
CoStar Analytics

November 28, 2023 | 12:17 P.M.

Job growth in Oklahoma City is slowing. Based on the latest results in September released bu the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the city’s employment base grew 1.5% over the past year, down from the average peak of 3.7% set at the end of 2022.

The current pace of annual job growth in Oklahoma City is returning to pre-pandemic averages, matching the average set from 2013 to 2019. The unemployment rate is hovering at 3.2%, up 40 basis points from the same time last year. The rise in unemployment reflects more people entering the labor force in search of work.

The latest annual results were led by the government and leisure and hospitality, which added 4,600 and 4,300 new jobs respectively. Initially hit hard, the leisure and hospitality segment is now about 9% above pre-pandemic levels. Even as Oklahoma’s center for government across federal and state levels, the public sector has still yet to fully rebound and remains down about 1%.

The Oklahoma City employment base is now 4.7% higher, or 29,800 more jobs, above February 2020. The market’s rebound has been led by the trade, transportation and utilities and education and health services, which have added 9,900 and 7,700 jobs on a nominal basis, respectively. The booming industrial segment has fueled demand for labor in the logistics space.

Oklahoma City is the location of the University of Oklahoma, which employs over 15,000 in its university network. With the university and affiliated healthcare network, this segment has proven more durable over the latest downturn.

Manufacturing job growth has also fueled Oklahoma City’s recovery. The manufacturing segment is up 9% since February 2020, or about 3,000 jobs. Manufacturing is a key sector for Oklahoma City to diversify its employment base away from oil and gas.

In one recent example, electric vehicle manufacturer Canoo recently purchased a 634,041-square-foot building along Interstate 40 after selecting Oklahoma City for its manufacturing operations with plans to add as many as 550 jobs to the area.

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