SHERIDAN — Wyoming’s mining sector continued to grow in the first quarter of 2018, improving the state’s overall employment and total payroll, but that growth was tempered by a shrinking labor force, according to David Bullard, a senior economist with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research and Planning Division.
Bullard’s report showed a net-gain of 1,491 jobs between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 — a 0.6 percent increase — and a roughly $133 million increase in total payroll — a 4.4 percent increase — during that same period.
Most of that growth came in the mining sector, including oil and gas, which added 1,805 jobs between first quarter 2017 and first quarter 2018. Several other industries experienced more modest growth during that period, including health and social assistance, which added 626 jobs; accommodation and food services, which added 438 jobs; transportation and warehousing, which added 328 jobs; manufacturing, which added 292 jobs; and professional and technical services, which added 247 jobs.
Those gains, however, were offset by losses in other state industries. Overall employment declined in local government, with a loss of 1,164 jobs; retail trade, with a loss of 588 jobs; state government, with a loss of 328 jobs; and construction, with a loss of 164 jobs. Despite its modest economic gains, Wyoming’s workforce continues to shrink. A report released by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division earlier this year showed 8,300 workers left Wyoming between 2016 and 2017.
When that report was released in March, Dr. Wenlin Liu, the chief economist for the Economic Analysis Division, told The Press there are two factors likely contributing to that population loss.
The first is the relative strength of Wyoming’s economy compared to the economies of neighboring states.
“In neighboring states, the economy has been strong, and nationwide the labor market has been robust for six or seven years,” Liu said. “If other states’ economies are strong, they will attract our employees. Colorado is always Wyoming’s no. 1 competitor, in terms of labor force, so any time their economy is strong they just suck away our labor force.”
The second factor, Liu said, is the draw of major cities. Since around 2010, Liu said, people have been flocking to big cities from rural and suburban areas. That trend works against Wyoming, which does not have any major metropolitan areas.
Sheridan County, which does not have a strong mining sector presence, did not see significant changes between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, according to Bullard’s report. The county saw a slight decrease in overall employment, losing 50 jobs, but saw a total payroll increase of roughly $2.3 million.
For comparison, Natrona County saw the most growth during that period, adding 546 jobs and increasing its total payroll by $30.6 million.
Laramie County, meanwhile, saw the greatest loss, with 204 jobs leaving, but still saw a total payroll increase of $20 million.
Bullard’s analysis of Wyoming’s growth between the second quarter of 2017 and 2018 is due to be published in February, but according to the preliminary data presented in his latest report, the first quarter trends are likely to continue.