What is in this article?:
- Fiscal cliff is neither as precipitous nor as close as some would have us believe.
- The biggest hit occurs in the second quarter.
- Failure to act likely will result in another recession and increased unemployment.
Long-term drought continues to influence the Oklahoma agriculture economy.
Okla. fares better
Wilkerson said Oklahoma’s economy has fared better than the national economy and “has outperformed just about every other state since last year. Many areas of the state have returned to full employment and most industries are growing. However, energy activity has begun to slow; the fiscal cliff looms; and the drought lingers.”
Job growth rate is widely variable across the country. With a 2.5 percent growth rate Oklahoma is second only to North Dakota. New Mexico, on the other hand, is number 50 and is “one of the most dependent on industries that sell to the Federal government.”
The defense industry is also important to Oklahoma and “is vulnerable,” Wilkerson said. “State unemployment is low but would be higher with more labor force participation.” Northwest and south central Oklahoma unemployment rates are especially low, at or near full employment.
“Growth in energy jobs slowed in quarter three but other industries posted positive growth.”
Oklahoma is not overly vulnerable to European trade risk. The fiscal cliff risk is about average. “Severe to exceptional drought is still gripping the state and the region,” Wilkerson said, putting a clamp on agricultural enterprises. Even with a historic drought, however, observers expect the U.S. farm sector to do well this year. “Total U.S. farm income is projected to rise, given high crop prices and insurance,” he said.
Livestock producers, however, will continue to be “squeezed by high feed costs.”
For lenders, agriculture remains a good bet, he said. ‘Ag loans are more current than any other type of loan at Oklahoma banks. And ag loans are much more important to Oklahoma banks than they are across the nation.”
Regional farmland prices continue to surge “and have accelerated in Oklahoma.”
Wilkerson said recent U.S. economic growth “has been moderate, with low inflation.” The fiscal cliff and concerns over the European economic situation continue to weigh on economic activity.
In Oklahoma, he said, “economic activity remains relatively solid, but drought and low natural gas prices have hurt recently.”
The economy, for Oklahoma and the Southwest region, as well as the nation as a whole, is making progress but some headaches may continue until Congress makes changes in fiscal policy and Europe’s economy settles down. But the Jan. 1 cataclysm may not be the doom and gloom some have predicted.