SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services released its Wyoming Workforce Annual Report Thursday, which provides an overview of Wyoming’s economy, workforce wages and growing industries.
In economic terms, the report shows Wyoming continues to recover slowly from the recent downturn.
The two industries that experienced the most growth in 2017 were mining and leisure and hospitality.
As other reports have shown, Wyoming’s economic recovery is largely tied to the recovery of the mining sector. However, mining jobs are still very low compared to where they were before the most recent downturn.
“We’re experiencing an upward trend a little bit, but it’s still considerably lower than it was at any point over the last decade,” said Michael Moore, the editor in the WDWS report.
Leisure and tourism saw only a slight dip as a result of the downturn and has seen an increase in recent years.
Patrick Manning, the principle economist at WDWS, said Wyoming’s tourism and leisure industries are seeing growth as a result of national economic recovery. Because people have more disposable incomes, they are taking more vacations and spending more money while on those vacations, and Wyoming’s tourism industry is benefiting.
The report also identified a significant gender wage gap in Wyoming in 2017, in which, on average, women were paid 63.7 cents for every dollar paid to men. However, Moore pointed out the wage gap identified in this report is a raw wage gap, which means it is based on general data.
“It doesn’t take into account things like education, experience, industry, the number of hours worked, occupation, things like that,” Moore said. “It’s not comparing apples to apples necessarily for men and women.”
Moore added that WDWS is working on a report that will offer a more complete analysis of the gender wage gap in the state and compare men and women with similar qualifications; that report is scheduled to be presented to the Legislature in October.
Tony Glover, the manager of WDWS, said the wage gap identified in the workforce report is a reflection of the industries that contain the most lucrative jobs in the state.
“In mining, oil and gas, it’s like 90 percent males in the industry,” Glover said. “It’s kind of our distribution of where we have high-paying jobs in the state.”
The wage gap also varied by county in the state. The gap was narrowest in Niobrara County, where women earned 85 percent of what men earn, and widest in Sweetwater County, where women earned 46 percent of what men earn. Sheridan County’s wage gap was above-average in the state, at 72 percent for women compared to men.
The counties with the largest wage gaps were those in which jobs in the mining industry make up a large percentage of total jobs, and the counties where either the average wages were low, such as Niobrara County, or where a large percentage of jobs were in public administration.
One section of the report also tracked what kind of economic impact jobs added to various industries would have on the state’s economy. The section tracked how much value-added jobs in a given industry contribute to the economy, with an eye toward industries Wyoming should consider when exploring economic diversification options.
“For example, 100 fast-food jobs are a lot lower value-added than 100 jobs in coal mining or a slaughter house,” Manning said.
Manning said the impact industries have also depends on how much of that industry’s raw materials can be purchased in state. One of the industries the report tested, for example, was wind power generation. Wind turbines, and many of the components involved in building them, generally need to be imported from out of state, which means companies in that industry are not purchasing their raw materials in Wyoming.
However, the impact also depends on wages and jobs. Simply, hiring employees at strong wages means those employees will spend money in the state, improving the economy. Based on that methodology, the report concluded animal slaughter, except poultry, would have the greatest economic impact as a diversification industry because it pays solid wages and draws on resources the state already possesses, such as ranches and livestock. Wind energy generation would have the next highest impact, followed by mining and service industry jobs.
The report, however, only examined those four industries. Still, Glover said it was a model that could be used to explore the impact various industries could have in the state as Wyoming continues to explore options for economic diversification.