Ray Carter | October 31, 2022

Oklahoma’s economy outperformed most states during COVID

Ray Carter

While all states’ economies were harmed by the initial wave of COVID, the severity of the downturn differed from state to state and government COVID policies played a significant role in those differences. But a recent report shows that Oklahoma government policies did far less harm to economic growth and citizens’ personal income than those imposed in nearly all other states.

A study conducted by officials at the Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based think tank, showed that Oklahoma’s GDP declined by 2.5 percent due to state and local anti-COVID measures in the first quarter of 2021. Only four states fared better on that measurement.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said those results show Oklahoma’s policy response, which stressed personal responsibility over broad-based government-imposed shutdowns, was the correct response.

“There has never been a clearer difference between red states and blue states; while liberal lockdown states are still waking up to the economic loss caused by prolonged government shutdowns and draconian mandates, Oklahoma’s economy tells a different story,” Stitt said. “Our pro-freedom and pro-business policies early on in the pandemic have led us to record unemployment numbers, the largest savings account in state history, and the ability to cut taxes for every Oklahoman, all while giving teachers and law enforcement officers pay raises.”

The report showed that Oklahoma experienced per-capita GDP loss of $1,252 from government-imposed anti-COVID measures in the first quarter of 2021, or $5,008 for a family of four. That was less than the losses incurred by families in 39 other states. Families in 12 states experienced per-capita losses as a result of government COVID responses that were at least 50 percent greater than what occurred in Oklahoma.

Among the states that border Oklahoma, only Arkansas fared (slightly) better. The contrast between Oklahoma and some bordering states was significant. The per-capita loss from state and local anti-COVID-19 measures in Texas and Kansas was 37 percent greater than what occurred in Oklahoma, while New Mexico’s loss was 30 percent higher. Per-capita GDP loss in Colorado was 56 percent greater.

From February 2020 to June 2022, total employment in Oklahoma increased 2.6 percent, outpacing the growth rate in 36 states. Among the 36 states that lagged behind Oklahoma, 22 saw total employment decline during that time.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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