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Income growth slows in Oklahoma, but is still rising

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Personal income in Oklahoma grew at a slower rate in the first three months of 2005 but still beat the national average, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Oklahomans saw their personal income increase 1.2 percent in the first quarter of the year. This beat the national average of 0.7 percent growth for the period. Oklahoma ranked 16th in the nation, one place behind Texas and just ahead of North Carolina, according to the bureau report released this week.

Although incomes grew, they increased at a significantly slower rate than in the fourth quarter of 2004. Revised numbers for the final three months of the past year showed a 3.2 percent growth in Oklahoma, according to the bureau.

"Those are very strong income numbers for us," said research economist Mark Snead of Oklahoma State University. The state's economic recovery likely spiked in the final three months of 2004 and the first three months of 2005, Snead said.

"The main point is we are solidly into the recovery, and this is generally the point where the job market begins to perform extremely well," Snead said. "Solid economic conditions all around is the base conclusion. There really is not much bad news to focus on."

Other than the military sector, which was down 1 percent, every industry in the state showed earnings growth of more than 4 percent during the past four quarters. Both wage earners and the self-employed saw gains, although farm income dipped slightly.

"That's extremely strong, very strong growth," Snead said.

The state's economic rebound is particularly evident in the earnings from the related sectors of manufacturing, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing, Snead said. Over that one-year period, earnings grew 14.6 percent in wholesale trade, 14.1 percent in transportation and warehousing, and 6 percent in manufacturing.

"We've seen the beginnings of recovery in manufacturing. That's a sign that it might be a little stronger than the job numbers are suggesting," Snead said.

Manufacturing is coming back from a serious slowdown. From 2001 to 2003, real output in the state's manufacturing sector plummeted about 20 percent in real terms, he said.

"The reality is when you come out of a slowdown, you tend to gradually pick up steam and then you reach some peak level of growth and then you come back to what is normal and sustainable," Snead said. "We've probably seen that peak. It's behind us now, and we're probably going to trend back to something that's more sustainable."
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