The unique challenges we face today could make us forget that we are living in one of the most productive times in history, when there are many jobs and opportunities for Oklahomans willing to invest time and effort in their chosen field of work . They drive our economy forward. Former professional baseball player Sam Ewing said it best when he said, “Hard work brings out character in people: some roll up their sleeves, some shake their noses and some don’t show up at all”. In this time of uncertainty, made worse by anti-work practices, we should be grateful for those who emerge.
After the precarious lockdowns last year, many Oklahomans have chosen not to return to work. I admit that some may be scared of the virus. I suspect many are complacent and instead rely on federal unemployment benefits rather than contributing as part of the Oklahoma workforce. The impact of their decisions could cost our state countless dollars in lost productivity if we do not correct course now.
An informal review of job postings across the state today reveals that Oklahoma has enough vacancies to cover the number of jobless Oklahoma workers, but vacancies remain unfilled in Oklahoma. Most of the employers I speak to have difficulty finding work. One bright spot is that the Oklahomans who fill jobs are doing quite a bit.
The State Chamber Research Foundation’s Economic Competitiveness Index (ECI) ranks Oklahoma 16th in productivity. Conversely, Oklahoma ranks 34th out of 50 states for labor force participation. Without additional Oklahoma workers, we risk losing the productivity that drives a prosperous economy.
The Oklahomans who show up for work today not only make a living for themselves and their families, they also contribute to the growth of Oklahoma’s economy during these unusual times. I encourage all business owners and operators across Oklahoma to thank their employees for showing up and rolling up their sleeves. We all need to thank the nurses, restaurant operators, gas station workers, customer service agents, child minders, and grocery workers and warehouse keepers for doing their part in keeping our economy going. You really are the engine of Oklahoma’s economy.
Chad Warmington is the President and CEO of the State Chamber.