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Copyright 1998 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) Benchmark: What Does it Tell Us?

by: David Bullard

Through much of 1997, we warned readers of Wyoming Labor Force Trends that Wyoming's labor force was lagging behind 1996 levels, suggesting that workers were leaving the state or dropping out of the labor force. Recent information confirms our concerns and shows that the labor force fell even more than we expected. The following gives highlights of the statewide benchmarked data. County and Regional data will be featured in future issues of Trends.

1997 Benchmarking

After each calendar year, the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program goes through benchmarking, a process of improving the estimates using newly available information. The model based estimates are forced to match the annual average of the Current Population Survey (CPS) estimates. For Wyoming in 1997, this meant revising labor force down, employment down, and unemployment up. The Figure shows the annual average labor force and employment levels from 1987 to 1997. Readers should note that the 1997 labor force was not only lower than 1996, but also below 1995 and 1994 levels. In other words, during 1997 we lost two years of growth. Employment also fell below 1994 levels during 1997.

January 1998 Estimates

So, what does this mean? When reviewing the Wyoming Economic Indicators table, you'll notice that January 1998 employment was 6,000 people or 2.6 percent higher than January 1997. While this may sound like healthy growth, the historical context must be remembered: January 1998 employment is still lower than January 1996 employment, and the same is true for labor force.

Conclusion

The 1997 LAUS benchmark shows that labor force and employment both declined over the year reversing the five-year growth trend which began in 1991. While the January 1998 estimates are positive, it is too early to tell what 1998 will bring to the Wyoming economy.

More Information

As already noted, County and Regional LAUS benchmark data will be featured in future issues of Trends. You can examine the LAUS historical data in detail. LAUS data available on the Internet includes: employment and unemployment data for Wyoming (statewide) and all of Wyoming's counties (from 1974 to 1996), and the cities of Casper, Cheyenne and Laramie (some years not included for city data).


David Bullard is a Senior Statistician, specializing in Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) with Research & Planning. He is also an Associate Editor of Wyoming Labor Force Trends.


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