Why Oklahoma City's unemployment is under 5%

Oklahoma City.

Steve Chiotakis: We'll get a look a little later this morning at how many Americans filed for first time jobless claims last week. The nation's unemployment rate stands at 9.2 percent. But Oklahoma City is faring a lot better these days. It has the lowest jobless rate of any metro area in the country -- 4.9 percent.

Why is that area doing so much better? Michael Cross from station KOSU in Stillwater reports.


Michael Cross: Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a 340,000 square foot outlet mall in western Oklahoma City. The Outlet Shoppes will contain more than 100 stores and employ more than 1,000 people.

Marketing V.P. Gina Slechta says bringing the mall to Oklahoma City was a no-brainer.

Gina Slechta: Oklahoma City doesn't know what recession means. Your economy here is very diverse. It's very strong so the Oklahoma market is very exciting.

The city's chamber of commerce estimates the metro has added 3,400 new jobs this year. Oklahoma's largest city is adding 550 jobs with Boeing's move from Long Beach, Calif., and a national wireless company is planning a 218-employee call center.

So what made Oklahoma City the place to do business?

Roy Williams: A lot of it's luck.

That's Chamber President Roy Williams, who's had a hand in getting many businesses to the central part of the state. Oklahoma City has made several investments to attract industries from biosciences to aerospace to energy. Voters also passed a 1-cent sales tax to spruce up the downtown, which is bringing industry and tourists to the capitol city. But Williams says the city has to keep a business-like approach.

Williams: You don't ever sit back and say I've got enough customers, I don't need to make any more sales, I'm content with who's walking in the front door. Well sooner or later, they quit walking in. Every morning, you've got to get up and get right back at it.

Just last year, the Kauffman Foundation declared Oklahoma City the best entrepreneurial city in the nation with the most startups per capita.

In Oklahoma City, I'm Michael Cross for Marketplace.

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