© Copyright 2006 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 42 No. 12

New Labor for Wyoming’s Labor Market

by: Tom Gallagher, Manager

data prepared by: Sylvia D. Jones, Senior Research Analyst

The growing number of job vacancies in Wyoming emphasizes the need for development of retention and replacement strategies. This development of a strategy also requires an assessment of the goals of the recruiting process; for example, source states for nonresident workers are not necessarily the same for workers who establish themselves as residents.

Efforts to recruit workers to fill an increasing number of job vacancies in an aging Wyoming workforce requires an analysis of historic trends and an appreciation of the extent to which certain industries are dependent on nonresident workers (Gallagher et al., 2005; Henderson, 2004; Jones, 2005). Between 1994 and 2004 the number of nonresidents working at any time in the state grew by 43.5% while the number of Wyoming residents working grew by 10.6%. By 2004, 1 in 5 (17.8%) of those who worked in the state was a nonresident.

With a growing dependence on a nonresident workforce, it seems reasonable that development of an informational framework that could support an inter-state recruitment strategy, and a means of evaluating that strategy, begins by determining from which states workers have historically migrated. This will serve as a foundation for more detailed investigations of local economies within these states.

Among our findings is that source states for nonresident workers are not necessarily the same source states for workers who establish themselves as residents. Whether the goal of the recruitment process is to simply obtain workers or to obtain workers who then are more likely to become residents will have an affect on where one recruits. If the goal of recruiting workers who are likely to become residents is adopted, then the strategy should probably limit itself to a regional focus. However, if the goal is to simply obtain more workers, the strategy may become more far reaching.

To some extent, the regional competition for labor is also a competition for residents. Knowing the goal of the recruitment process is important to the subsequent steps in the “how to” process. As can be seen in Table 2 of the article “Jobs Worked in Wyoming Rises by 7,000 in 2005,” several states in the immediate vicinity have average wage growth below Wyoming’s wage growth and may serve as sources of new relocating labor. However, these states may not be the most prominent source of nonresident labor. Further, since many of these states have economies similar in key respects to Wyoming, the competition for experienced labor in targeted occupations may be a regional phenomenon.

Tables 1, 2, and 3 present information on recent sources of nonresident labor by state and for selected industries for the periods 2002 and 2004. In 2004, 10 states including Texas and California were responsible for more than 56.6% of the 57,547 nonresident persons who worked at any time in Wyoming. However, as can be seen in the graphic displaying unemployment rates for these top 10 states (see Figure), from 2002 to 2005, the rate of unemployment has been declining fairly rapidly. Tightening labor markets among source states may partially explain some of the loss of nonresident labor to the Construction industry from 2002 to 2004.

Between 2002 and 2004, fairly dramatic changes were taking place in the industries in which many nonresidents worked. Between 2002 and 2004, the number of nonresidents working in Construction declined by 19.7%, or a net 2,054 workers, while at the same time the number of nonresidents working in the Mining industry increased by 42.9% or 1,662 persons.

Many workers in Construction possess skills that are transferable to higher wage firms in Mining. The net difference between those who left Construction (-2,054) and those nonresidents who went into Mining (1,662), represents a net loss of 392 workers to Wyoming’s labor market. Net losses of Construction workers relative to gains in workers in the Mining industry occurred for workers from California (-238 Construction workers compared to a net increase of 239 workers in the Mining industry), Texas, Utah, Montana, and Idaho.

These net losses among the six most prominent source states for nonresident workers may be a function of the improved demand for workers in these source states and possibly distance from Wyoming.

The clear evidence is that any recruitment strategy that focuses on interstate markets must be flexible enough to aggressively incorporate information about changing markets at both the source state and sub-state levels.

Skills transferability from the Construction industry to the Mining industry is also suggested by the net change in employment levels for residents as well. From 2002 to 2004, the number of persons who worked at any time in the Construction industry declined by 1,553 persons while the net number working in Mining increased by 929. Other industries which form the supporting framework for the Mining industry have also been successful traditionally in competing for Construction workers. Manufacturing; Transportation & Warehousing; Utilities; and high wage, male dominated industries have traditionally been successful competitors for workers from the Construction industry.

These findings suggest that if the target industry for recruitment is the Construction industry, the industry that successfully competes for recruited workers is as likely to be Mining or one of the higher wage, male dominated industries which support it. The measure of successful recruitment may need to be tempered by the practicalities of the intrastate competition for workers with transferable skills.

Detailed tables showing the number of nonresidents and residents working in all industries for 2002 and 2004 are online at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/ResTables.htm.

Methodological Note

Establishing which states have historically been the source of nonresident workers is based on analysis developed with the assistance of several other states using the criteria described in http://doe .state.wy.us/LMI/0804/a1supp.htm.

Through interstate data sharing agreements and a common research agenda, research offices in South Dakota and Nebraska, with R&P, have tested the administrative records approach to defining residency and found it reliable.


Gallagher, T.; Harris, M.; Hiatt, M.; Leonard, D.; Saulcy, S.; & Shinkle, K. R. (2005). Private sector employee access to health insurance and the potential Wyo-Care market. Casper, WY: Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning.

Henderson, C. R. (2004). Economic recovery and labor availability in Wyoming. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 41(7), 1-7, 16.

Jones, S. (2005). Labor retention: Out-migration of youth. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 42(6), 1-6, 8.

These pages designed by Julie Barnish.
Last modified on by Phil Ellsworth.