Guest Column: Post-COVID-19 Economic Outlook
Eric Long is the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's Research Economist.
Many local companies and families are hurting right now.
When we all struggle to face the day-to-day events that impact us personally, it’s difficult to look at the big picture and speculate on what the economic future will look like.
Right now, it is too early to determine the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the local economy. Undoubtedly, we will continue to see supply chain disruptions and impacts across all sectors.
The industries most vulnerable from the pending COVID-19 recession are leisure and hospitality, travel, employment services and transportation. The oil and gas industry is suffering not only from a reduction in global demand due to the virus, but also the effects of a price war.
The Oklahoma City metro boasts 3,000 foodservice and drinking places employing over 60,000 workers. The vast majority of those restaurants and bars are operated by small business owners. We support and admire businesses in all industry sectors for being creative to make things work during a very difficult time.
In February, we released our 2020 Oklahoma City Economic Forecast. At that time, while a softening of local conditions was expected, there was optimism that the Oklahoma City metro economy would continue to grow adding 2,900 jobs or 0.5 percent growth in 2020. This followed strong results from 2019 during which annual job growth was 1.2 percent or 7,900 jobs.
Oklahoma City started 2020 with an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent which was eighth lowest among large metropolitan areas. While the numbers will change, it’s important to use that information as a benchmark going forward.
Even during this time of uncertainty, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber continues to receive new inquiries from businesses considering relocation to OKC. In addition, the team is working on 71 existing projects in our pipeline from companies considering expansion to our area.
That is a testament to the attractiveness of the Oklahoma City market. It reflects optimism within certain segments of the business community that there will be a return to normalcy at some point – even if it is hard to imagine right now.
It’s difficult to see what will transpire later in the year and how many of those projects will still materialize or be delayed. However, there are several current examples of companies expanding or being innovative.
Some of those success stories include companies like Synq3 and Prairie Wolf.
Synq3, a work-from-home company located in Moore, handles restaurant delivery requests and continues to grow to meet increased demand for take-out food orders. Prairie Wolf Spirits uses its talents as a distillery to produce hand sanitizer and meet a critical need.
Several other firms also are hiring.
Matching companies with individuals who have been displaced from their jobs will be vital to retaining talent. Industries such as healthcare and distribution/logistics have expanding needs. Retraining will be extremely important to address gaps in the new workforce. This has always been important but is now more critical than ever before.