New report says Wyoming's economy is showing signs of the drop in oil and gas prices



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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Wyoming's economy is showing signs of the drop in oil and gas prices, according to a new report by the state's Economic Analysis Division.

But the same report notes that those counties that don't rely as heavily on the energy industry remained fairly stable, seeing modest year-over-year growth for the quarter.

The report written by state economist Wenlin Liu focuses mainly on the changes from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.

Liu said that while nearly every job sector in Wyoming saw year-over-year growth and state unemployment has dropped to 4 percent, mining was the one big exception.

That job sector saw a 2.4 percent drop in employment, equating to about 660 jobs.

"The simple reason was a dramatic decline in drilling rigs for oil and natural gas," Liu told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/1gvKloR). "It's not only oil prices, but natural gas prices too. And that's directly affecting Wyoming's economy."

Only one other job sector saw year-over-year declines in employment, and that was "other services," which cover a wide and disparate range of professions. Employment there fell 2.8 percent, shedding about 270 jobs.

In Wyoming's case, Liu said the "other services" sector includes services that he believes are linked to the energy sector, which would help to explain the decline.

"Lots of these are repair and maintenance services — auto repairs, machinery repairs," Liu said. "And those are also related to the mineral extraction industry."

Aside from government, which was effectively flat, all other job sectors saw modest growth over the previous year.

Financial activities, wholesale trade, transportation/utilities and professional/business services saw the largest proportional increases, with each having between 3 and 3.4 percent employment growth. In terms of sheer numbers of jobs, professional/business services added the most with 570; construction was just behind at 550.

Overall, Liu said, personal income grew 4.1 percent over the previous year, though the increase in earnings also varied by job sector. Wholesale trade earnings grew 13 percent, for example, while mining industry earnings only edged up 0.3 percent.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Liu's report is the change in taxable sales across Wyoming since the first quarter of 2014. Overall, taxable sales totaled $4.3 billion in the first quarter of 2015, a 2.1 percent decline from the same period in 2014, Liu said.

But the change in taxable sales varied widely at the county level. Counties that are more heavily dependent on oil and gas extraction saw much larger declines, with Niobrara County's taxable sales dropping 52.3 percent year over year.

"Decreases occurred in the majority of economic industries, with the largest contraction in the mining sector," Liu said. "That contributed nearly all of the total decrease for the quarter."

Those declines were lower but still present elsewhere, including a 14.7 percent drop in Carbon County, 12.1 percent in Sublette County and 9.6 percent in Fremont County.

"Hopefully these counties enjoyed the boom, and for budgeting purposes they don't spend all their money when it booms," Liu said. "In Wyoming's economy, these ups and downs are going to happen."

But several counties with more diverse or tourism-based economies actually saw improvement in their taxable sales numbers. Teton County, for example, saw a 6.4 percent jump; Albany County rose 8.8 percent.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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