Oklahoma City a great place to wait out recession

Oklahoma City a good place to ride out recession
Oklahoma City was a good place to be the past two years for anyone looking to wait out the recession. So were Minneapolis, Minn., and Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.

Oklahoma's capital had an unemployment rate of 6.7% in January, the lowest among large metro areas. During the recession, its unemployment rate has risen only 2.9 percentage points, making it one of four large metro areas in the country with the smallest increases in joblessness over the past two years.

The national unemployment rate is 9.7%, up nearly 5 percentage points in the past two years with 8.4 million jobs cut -- the most in any downturn since the 1930s.

What makes Oklahoma City so great that it has the lowest unemployment in the country? It invested early in energy, aviation and bio-medical fields -- areas that weren't hit hard by the recession and are growing, Mayor Mick Cornett told me in a telephone interview. Some of the largest natural gas companies in the world are headquartered in Oklahoma City, Cornett said.

But the city has felt the recession. Sales taxes have dropped, but no city service cuts have been needed yet and no police or firefighters have been laid off, he said. However, all city employees will take a salary cut in 2011.

Still, if you were to drop into Oklahoma City, you might not know the country is in a recession. Office construction continues and schools are being built. "There's just a lot of vitality in the city going on," Cornett said.

Over in Minneapolis, which led the nation's 49 largest metro areas (cities with at least 1 million people) with the smallest rise in unemployment, up only 2.8 percentage points to 7.7% in January, the good economy is attributed to the medical equipment industry doing well.

Unemployment rose in Rochester, N.Y., by 3 percentage points to 8.7%. Buffalo, N.Y. saw unemployment rise 2.9 percentage points to 9.2% in January.

Buffalo's unemployment rate was 9.2% in January. That's high, but below the national rate of 9.7%. It rose only 2.9 percentage points during the recession.
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