By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Experts foresee job losses and weakness across all sectors of Oklahoma's economy, but counter the warning with an encouraging reminder that the situation could be worse.
"We think small job losses will occur in 2009," OSU research economist Mark Snead said. "We think we will still outperform the nation in job growth."
At a conference addressing the state's 2009 economic forecast Tuesday, economists projected job losses of less than one percent in Oklahoma next year, which equates about 2,000 additional people out of work.
The state's oil and gas industry, they said, should continue to shield Oklahomans from a more severe downturn.
"The problem is if energy prices fall substantially from this point," Snead said. "That's a serious concern, and would certainly be enough to trigger a recession here in Oklahoma."
Tribal casinos expect revenues will be down, which will also impact the state.
"Together, these tribes are contributing between five and 10 percent of the entire gross state product," said Brad Carson of the Cherokee Nation Business.
Officials with the Cherokee Nation expect the tribes will continue to invest in their communities, despite the economy.
"I think the tribes will do just fine," Carson said. "They're not entities that lay off people, typically."
And while that may bode well for some, economists said, for most of the state, the next nine months will be challenging.
"The beauty is you are in probably one of seven or eight states that has a decent chance to move through this cycle somewhat unscathed," Snead said. "The state economy at this point is still generating large numbers of new jobs."
Snead believes Oklahoma will actually see the worst conditions now through the first few months of 2009, but said he then expects things to gradually improve as long as energy prices don't take an even deeper dive.
Economists said the job losses in Oklahoma should be more severe for people entering the workforce, and not as bad for people already in the workforce.