Tulsa has second-highest percentage loss of jobs in nation


Friday, May 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa has the second-highest percentage loss of jobs in a 12-month period in the nation, a new federal study shows.

Metropolitan Tulsa lost 16,400 jobs over the past year, falling from 400,100 to 383,700 from March 2002 to March 2003, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

Of the 272 metropolitan areas surveyed, San Jose, Calif., had the highest percentage loss of jobs.

Requests for food stamp assistance _ the most responsive indicator of poverty _ have increased nearly 50 percent from a year ago in Tulsa County.

Tulsa has a higher concentration of jobs in information technology, telecommunications and manufacturing than other neighboring metro areas, said Craig Knutson, president of E-conographic Consulting Services of Oklahoma.

``Tulsa during the latter part of the '90s benefited very strongly from having a higher percentage of its economic base in those areas,'' Knutson said.

``Unfortunately, business cycles being the way they are, those three industries were severely hit in the first part of this decade. So, you benefit on the upswing, and you get hurt on the downswing.''

Losing high-wage jobs in Tulsa has had a ripple effect through the rest of the economy, said Lynn Gray, managing economist for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

``I'm afraid it's going to get worse before it gets better. The most recent round of layoffs and wage concessions, they've been announced, but they haven't materialized yet. The impact of those still has yet to be felt,'' Gray said in a story in the Friday edition of the Tulsa World.

The layoff of 718 union members by American Airlines hasn't shown up in unemployment figures.

American's $3 billion annual impact on the local economy will be trimmed by $215 million, the Tulsa Metro Chamber said.

The Tulsa work force of Williams Cos. Inc. could be down from 3,000 to 1,500 by the time its consolidation plan is fully implemented, chief executive officer Steve Malcolm said last month.

The food stamp program is the first public assistance available to most unemployed and low-income citizens, Department of Human Services workers note.

The value of the federally funded food stamp accounts statewide grew from $23.5 million in March 2002 to $29.7 million in March 2003, an increase of 27 percent.

In Tulsa County, the value of food stamp accounts rose 47 percent to $4.3 million while the number of recipients increased 41 percent to 50,383.

The number of recipients increased 23 percent, from 303,638 to 374,866.

Signs from the national economy may provide clues about when Tulsa will emerge from its slump, Knutson said.

Tulsa's economy does not lag behind the national economy as much as it once did when the city's economy was more reliant on energy companies.

Bob Ball, Tulsa Metro Chamber economist, said some companies have been looking to expand in Tulsa because of the area's strong telecommunications base.

``We've got the concentration of two large centers of fiber optics in one city, which is unprecedented anywhere else,'' Ball said, referring to WilTel Communications Group and WorldCom Inc.

``Those two facilities have raised eyebrows and have drawn attention for prospective expansion into this area.''

He declined to name the companies.