State revenues fall; unemployment hits 5 percent

State tax revenues declined for the 18th month in a row and Oklahoma’s unemployment rate has topped the national average for the first time in 26 years.

State Treasurer Ken Miller reported that gross receipts – which provide a broad view of state economic activity – were down by 4 percent in August compared to the same month of last year. Total collections during the past 12 months were off by more than 7 percent compared to the prior period, according to the reports.

The Legislature passed a budget for this fiscal year with a $1.3 billion shortfall.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reports the state’s unemployment rate at 5 percent, one-tenth of one percentage point higher than the national rate of 4.9 percent in July. The last time Oklahoma’s jobless rate topped that of the nation was in October 1990.

Some dispute the accuracy of the national rate because it doesn’t take into account those who have been out of work so long that they stop looking for employment.

Miller said he’s on the lookout for indications the contraction is ending.

“We keep scouring through the data to find signs of an impending turnaround, but it’s just not there,” Miller said. “Some aspects of the August report aren’t as negative as in prior months – a few revenue streams have ticked up slightly – but we can’t yet point to a positive trend.”

Unlike the past few months, August gross receipts show two revenue sources with slight improvements. Monthly collections from individual income and motor vehicle taxes were each around 5 percent higher than in August 2015. However, measured over the past 12 months, every major revenue stream remains lower than the prior one-year period.

Collections from gross production taxes on oil and natural gas increased from the prior month for the fourth consecutive time, reflecting a slight rebound in wellhead prices. However, compared to the prior year, receipts remain suppressed.

The report for August lists gross receipts at $832.2 million, down $34.3 million, or 4 percent, from August 2015.

Gross income tax collections, a combination of individual and corporate income taxes, generated $254.2 million, a reduction of $4 million, or 1.53 percent, from the previous August.

Individual income tax collections for the month are $242.7 million, up by $12.3 million, or 5.3 percent, from the prior year. Corporate collections are $11.5 million, down by $16.3 million, or 58.5 percent.

Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $351.2 million in August. That is $21.5 million, or 5.8 percent, below August of last year.

Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $31.8 million during the month, a decrease of $9 million, or 5.8 percent, from last August. Compared to July reports, gross production collections are up by $1.3 million, or 4.2 percent.

Motor vehicle taxes produced $68.7 million, up by $3 million, or 4.5 percent, from the prior year. Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $126.3 million during the month. That is $2.7million, or 2.1 percent, less than last August.

During the past 12 months, September 2015 through August 2016, gross revenue totals $1 million less than $11 billion. That is $903.8 million, or 7.6 percent, below collections for the previous 12-month period.

Sales taxes for the 12 months generated $4.2 billion, a decrease of $217.4 million, or 4.9 percent, from the preceding period. On November 8, Oklahomans will vote on raising state sales tax by one cent – a 22 percent increase.