Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate in June was 5 percent, the lowest among the nation’s 49 largest metro areas. That’s good news, even if the rate was up slightly from the 4.5 percent a month earlier. Considering the national unemployment rate continues to be a shade over 8 percent, we’ll take 5 percent.
On the other hand, a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows Oklahoma has the highest known rate of payday borrowing.
Thirteen percent of Oklahomans are using these short-term, high-interest loans to help make ends meet. That’s a higher percentage than any of the other 31 states that had data worth crunching.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission noted that the job market here remains very tight. For many Oklahomans, it’s clear that money does, too.
Tulsa-based Lufthansa Technik Component Services announced this week that it has tripled the number of people employed locally in the past year, and plans to add as many as 90 employees in the next few years.
This is good news, as was the recent announcement that Belgium-based ASCO Industries will open a production facility in Stillwater, investing up to $100 million and adding as many as 600 jobs by 2015.
While there’s a natural rivalry among Oklahoma communities, economic growth isn’t a zero-sum game. Job growth in Oklahoma City doesn’t come at the expense of Tulsa, and vice-versa. Our state can’t thrive if just one area thrives while most other communities struggle.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber has a goal to create 10,000 primary jobs at an annual salary of $50,000 or greater. The LTCS announcement brings the group that much closer to achieving its goal.
Prosperity not only brings benefits, but also challenges. That’s become apparent in the oil boom towns of North Dakota.
The Associated Press reports that Williston, N.D., has seen its population double in the past decade, and the average annual wage has surged from $32,000 to $80,000. Because of that rapid growth, housing is in short supply and the cost of buying or renting is increasing as well. That’s especially challenging for those not directly involved in the oil industry, such as teachers who have starting salaries of $31,500. The town’s school is expected to see student growth of 46 percent this year alone.
So far, though, it appears those challenges aren’t deterring teacher applicants. And the problems of rapid population and wage growth are preferable to dealing with struggling local economies and low wages. We suspect many small communities in Oklahoma would gladly trade places with Williston.
When an F5 tornado hit Moore on May 3, 1999, it did $800 million in estimated damage to that community’s neighborhoods. Today, the city is one of Oklahoma’s fastest-growing. Recently, Census figures ranked Moore among the top 100 cities in the country based on its growth. The community added 1,234 people from 2010 to 2011 (2.2. percent growth). Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs have all enjoyed growth in recent years. The Census found that Oklahoma City’s population increased by 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, while Mustang and Yukon experienced population growth greater than 3 percent. Yet Moore stands out because of its not-so-distant tragic past. Recalling the horror of 1999 and the broad path of rubble the tornado made of buildings and people’s lives, the growth of Moore has been a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the perseverance of Oklahomans.
Some political stereotypes survive long past their expiration point. For example: Democrats are for the working man and Republicans are shills for evil big business. But The Wall Street Journal notes that J.P. Morgan Chase — of the notorious $2 billion loss — actually gave far more to Democrats than Republicans in 2008. That year, Democrats received $3.6 million compared with $2.3 million for Republicans. This election year, Mitt Romney is the bank’s biggest recipient with $373,650 so far, but that still pales compared with $807,799 given Barack Obama in 2008. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup also bankrolled Democrats in a big way in 2008 before shifting to Republicans this cycle. Democrats and big business are clearly willing to get in bed together, although this administration’s economic record is causing the banks to rethink that marriage of convenience.
Thanks to state Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, and state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, the state bond advisor has added a website allowing citizens to review state bond information (www.ok.gov/bondadvisor/State_Debt/index.html). We believe this is a victory for transparency that will help inform future debates. We have urged lawmakers to use bond financing for basic government upkeep, such as the dire need for a new medical examiner’s office. What works for private citizens buying a home can work for state government addressing infrastructure needs. Bond opponents using the web site may note that Oklahoma has nearly $1.6 billion in existing net tax-supported debt, while supporters can cite Oklahoma’s healthy bond ratings and low ranking on net tax-supported debt per capita. Either way, the web site will allow for a more informed citizenry and debate. Well done.
The age-old problem of families buying a cute puppy only to find the full-grown version unmanageable, and then dumping him in the country, is apparently an issue with horses as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that horse “dumpouts” in rural areas have surged due to the tough economy. As a result, “wild” herds are growing unmanageable, leading to calls for reviving horse slaughter plants in several states, including Oklahoma. Animal rights activists are appalled, but those dealing with the animals say there simply aren’t enough people able to take in abandoned horses, which often struggle to survive in a wild herd. While no one likes the idea of killing a horse in a slaughterhouse, that’s a far better fate than slow starvation or the painful death that occurs when a horse is struck by a car — another increasing problem thanks to the dumpout trend.
Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman Archives
Income inequality is one of the favorite canards of the left, an oft-drawn weapon of class warfare. Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. writes that this is a “strange obsession, at least to the extent the obsessive focus their policy responses on trying to adjust the condition of the top 1 percent rather than improving the opportunities of everyone else.” Perhaps the warfare should shift to the liberal enclaves known as law firms. There, the richest lawyers are getting richer and the rest are struggling. More lawyers are in the $1,000-an-hour club than ever. TyMetrix, a legal software firm, found hourly rate increases for the elite and declines for many other lawyers. This isn’t the glass ceiling. It’s the class-action ceiling. Counselors, who ya gonna sue?
Canada is literally pinching pennies from its budget. The finance minister announced this week that the Royal Canadian Mint will cease distribution of the coin this fall. Producing a penny costs about 1.6 cents, so the change is expected to save 11 million Canadian dollars annually. As our northern neighbors eliminate a coin deemed a nuisance, our Congress is considering transitioning to a coin many consider inconvenient. Replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin would supposedly help combat the deficit. The Americans for George coalition expresses concerns about the financial and practical implications of the change. A public opinion poll shows 97 percent believe the dollar bill is more convenient than carrying coins. The Government Accountability Office estimates over half a billion in net losses to the government during the first decade of the transition, and reports by the Federal Reserve Board and U.S. Treasury raise concerns that the long-term impact may also be negative. In the past 15 years, only one major country phased out a bill in favor of a coin: Russia. A penny for your thoughts?
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press)