Oklahoma continues to muscle its way through the economic recovery period. Net job gains for the state total 4.7 percent since the recession began and the United States in general has seen a net job gain of 1.4 percent during the same time period. And, at 4.2 percent, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is below the national average, a good sign for many of the strong industries in Oklahoma.

Several key industries in Oklahoma have been leading the charge in Oklahoma’s recovery. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce has identified five economic areas that are the strongest with regards to wealth generation, growth potential, and wages, among other defining criteria.

While other industries continue to witness growth, these appear to be the driving forces in the state’s economy. Here are the top five industries in Oklahoma:

1) Energy: Roughly one-quarter of working Oklahomans are employed directly or indirectly in the energy industry. Oil and natural gas maintain a commanding lead when it comes to job growth in this industry. About 20 percent of all jobs in the state are tied to the oil and natural gas sectors.

Wind energy has begun to make a noticeable economic impact. With about two dozen wind farms in the state, the wind energy sector provides about 4,000 jobs and contributes $340 million in labor income, according to a study commissioned by The Wind Coalition Oklahoma.

2) Information and Finance: Oklahoma boasts 70-plus data centers serving as IT lifelines for the likes of ADP, Google, and IBM. In Oklahoma City, 400 companies employ about 30,000 people in IT, high technology, and software development. Major Oklahoma employers in the financial sector include Verizon, with a financial services hub in Tulsa, and Paycom, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City.

3) Transportation and Distribution: In Oklahoma, commercial shipping of minerals and steel flows along the McClellan Kerr River Navigation System, which runs southeast through Oklahoma and into Arkansas, and provides access to the Mississippi River. Two major railroads, five airports, and three interstate highways give further advantage to Oklahoma when it comes to transportation and distribution.

4) Agriculture and Biosciences: Agriculture has long been an important industry in Oklahoma. In addition to food manufacturing, the state offers agriculture and bioscience careers in research and development, commodity production and distribution, and fertilizer manufacturing. Over 500 bioscience-related businesses and organizations are in the state, with a total economic impact in biosciences of more than $6.7 billion.

Today, agriculture and biosciences receive additional strength from educational resources like the Institute for Agricultural Biosciences at Oklahoma State University. The institute has a 33,000-square-foot research facility where innovations in crop production are developed.

economic situation expert’s opinion business Inter Invest Oklahoma Foundation

5) Aerospace and Defense: Tinker Air Force Base, the world’s largest aircraft-maintenance complex and military-aviation logistics center, is based in Oklahoma City and employs 26,000 military and civilian personnel. Tulsa is home to American Airlines’ maintenance and repair facility. All told, Oklahoma’s aviation industry provides 143,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Tia McKitrick