Not a rosy picture.
New economic figures for the state continue to paint a picture of a long and slow recovery, according to officials at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based nonprofit organization that provides information, analysis and commentary on issues that affect the state.
The December issue of "Numbers You Need," the group's monthly bulletin of key economic and budget trends, reveals that the state's jobless rate remained flat at 6.9 percent in October, while total employment essentially was unchanged. The number of Oklahomans receiving SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits increased for the 30th straight month in September, reaching an all-time high of more than 610,000 individuals. Foreclosure filings in the third quarter of 2010 also remained at historically high levels and were 15 percent higher than the level for the same quarter in 2009. And while state revenue collections were 6.3 percent higher compared to the same period a year ago, they remained 24 percent below their pre-downturn levels.
The institute also responded to preliminary Fiscal Year 2012 estimates developed by the state Tax Commission and Office of State Finance that suggest the state will continue to recover from a precipitous drop in revenues during the downturn but that the recovery will remain slow and incomplete. According to those figures, collections to the General Revenue Fund are expected to be more than $5.1 billion -- an increase of $500 million, or 10.9 percent from Fiscal Year 2010 -- but approximately $850 million, or 14 percent, below the pre-downturn peak of Fiscal Year 2008. According to the projections, next year's collections will remain considerably below levels of six years ago.
Those issues and more will be discussed in a speech the institute is hosting on Sunday, Jan. 9 at the Dilly Deli, 402 E. 2nd St. Economist Dean Baker will speak on "The Great Recession: How We Got In and How We Can Get Out" at 6:45pm. The event will begin with a wine and dessert reception and conclude with a panel discussion in response to Baker's comments.
Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and appears regularly on CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio. In 2009, he wrote "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy," which chronicled the growth and collapse of the stock and housing bubbles, and explained how policy blunders and greed led to the catastrophic but predictable market meltdowns.
Tickets are $25. Reservations can be made by visiting the institute's Web site at okpolicy.org.
Don't burn it, mulch it.
A landscaping and nursery business in south Tulsa is offering residents a greener way to dispose of their Christmas trees this season besides hauling it to the curb for pickup.
Southwood Landscape and Nursery, 9025 S. Lewis Ave., will accept any tree and chip it into mulch for free. According to company officials, the firm will then use the mulch for insulating big trees for the winter and creating potting soil.
"Because we are part of a green industry, we really wanted to offer people a way to throw out their old Christmas tree without contributing to growing pollution and overflowing landfills," said Joe Ward, Southwood's general manager.
For more information, visit the company's Web site at southwoodnursery.com or call 261-1420.
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