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Oklahoma economy has bottomed out, heading up slightly

You might say, America, Oklahoma and Oklahoma City might best be described as “waiting to exhale, according to the view of Stephen Agee, Ph.D, economist and newly-minted dean of Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business.

What are they waiting for?

Two factors, which loom for the economy:

First, businesses are waiting to see if Congress extends the Bush tax cuts, which expire this year.

Secondly, businesses are worried about healthcare.

As a result, some consumers continue putting off purchases of cars, homes, appliances – so-called ‘durable goods,’ or items that are expected to last longer than three or four years,” Agee said.

So the cycle persists, fueled by factors real, imagined and feared.

These are nagging irritants, though the recession officially has been declared over.

Oklahoma City has stood pretty firm in the past few years but hasn’t escaped the negative economic scorch, Agee said.

Record enrollment in entitlement programs such as unemployment benefits  – and particularly food stamps –  testify to that.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Agee said. “How is all this going to impact us? The new healthcare law…whether the Bush tax cuts are extended..those are going to be keys to this unemployment situation improving faster than it is.”

Yet, Agee says, “Oklahoma’s economy has outpaced the nation in 2010 and has fewer future risks, but some recent data have been mixed.

He knows because as head of the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City, he and his board study the Oklahoma economy in minute detail. They then submit their conclusions the regional Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. In turn, the KC Fed submits its collection of regional statistics to Washington, D.C., where monetary policy is determined for the nation.

Key statistics still lead Agee to feel a little bit upbeat about the city and the state.

“Our most dominant industry is oil and gas industry or mining, of course, he said. “The oil and gas industry has improved. Though nature gas prices are still low, oil prices have improved.”

He sees other bright spots too.

“We’re an agricultural state. Commodity prices are starting to rise again. Oklahoma is big farming state. Durable goods orders are starting to increase.

“I think the worst is over and we will see stabilization or marginal improvement in these areas ahead.”

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