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Falling price of oil's impact on Oklahoma

LAWTON, Okla._The falling price of oil has had a huge negative impact on Oklahoma's economy with widespread job losses and government budget cuts due to shrinking revenue.

That was the focus of a forum Wednesday at Cameron University featuring an economist with the State Employment Security Commission. The oil and gas industry in Oklahoma is currently down 11,400 jobs since its peak last December.

Economists say state officials are expecting a significant budget shortfall at the end of this fiscal year, which means a dire outlook for next year's state budget. This has caused some students, who will soon be joining the workforce, to worry about their future job prospects in Oklahoma.

Senior business major Brian Bohannan says he hopes to work for an energy company one day.

"It's a little scary. I do know that the United States is very dependent on oil right now and the oil prices fluctuating as much as they do…it's a little scary knowing that it could be up and it could be down," he said.

Bohannan says his father works in a machine shop that makes parts for the oil field.

"He's really feeling the draw backs of cut in production and my stepbrother and my real brother, they both work in the oil field as well. My stepbrother has actually lost his job. My brother, he has taken a reduction in pay," Bohannan explained.

However, the director of economic research and analysis with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Lynn Gray says he does not expect the same impact as the recession in the 1980s on the State of Oklahoma's economy.

"Oil and gas is a much smaller industry than it was then, and it has a much smaller relative employment impact on the state than it did in the early 80s," Gray said.

Now, there are significantly fewer rigs across the state than there were at the peak in the 80s. For those who do not work in the oil and gas industry, Gray says those people will still be affected down the road when the amount of money in Oklahoma's Unemployment Fund decreases.

"A little over $1.2 billion, although it has just declined below that mark and if that continues to decline, the employer taxes across the board would increase in a couple of years regardless of what industry you are in," Gray explained.

Bohannan echoed that sentiment with his hope that the oil and gas industry rebounds once again.

"A good economy is really a plus for everybody and not just in the oil sector. The oil being good is for everybody else," Bohannan said.

Gray says the average salary of an Oklahoman was just under $44,000 in 2014, and the average salary of those who work in the oil and gas industry was just over $96,000. He says the economy is already seeing the impact of those oil and gas workers who have lost their jobs.

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