by: Tom Gallagher and Buck McVeigh

The objective of Outlook 2000 is to provide state and local policy makers, businesses, economic development groups, interest groups, and the citizens of Wyoming with a consolidated and comprehensive almanac of information describing key economic, demographic and employment trends.

Traditionally, both the Department of Employment/Research & Planning Section and the Department of Administration & Information/Division of Economic Analysis have produced outlook publications focusing, respectively, on occupational demand and economic and demographic trends. There has always been one common link, however, between these two publication endeavors--employment by industry.

For years, the existence of multiple forecasts for employment data has made it confusing and complicated for both the data user and provider. "Which data series is correct?" or "Which series should I use?" are frequently asked questions. It is time that the forecasting efforts of the two agencies be consolidated into one. Outlook 2000 brings both of these efforts together in one document.

Historically, the Research & Planning Section (R&P) has developed detailed industry projections as an essential first step in the production of occupational projections.1 Occupational projections are useful to both counselors and students in making more practical career decisions and are also used by dislocated workers and training staff to help make efficient transitions to new work opportunities. Industry projections and occupational staffing patterns are also used by those developing and evaluating new training programs and Community College curriculums.

The Division of Economic Analysis has forecast population and employment since 1977. Beginning in 1991, the Division produced a comprehensive annual economic forecast, entitled the "Wyoming Economic Forecast Report," that provided data on population, employment, earnings by industry, total personal income, and mineral price and production. The main focus of the report was to provide a tool for long-range economic and policy-related planning.

The synthesis of these two efforts is possible and is evident in this report. The partnership that exists between the two agencies has enabled us to produce this report, and will likely enable us to produce future joint publications, depending on the level of usage and feedback we receive endorsing the usefulness of Outlook 2000.

The focus of this report is on long-term economic activity and structural outcomes, as opposed to a short-term outlook. Short-term economic analysis focuses on issues related to fluctuations in levels and composition of economic variables. Long-term trend analysis focuses on the probable growth path of economic variables assuming equilibrium dynamics. Long-term trend forecasts, which are absent of external shocks (e.g., a major regional war), can miss crucial turning points in the economy, where short-term analysis might depict them. But, it is very difficult to predict the exact timing and magnitude of potential external shocks. Additionally, short-term statistical series can exhibit the "random walk." In a random walk, data changes (e.g, employment data) are serially independent and produce short-run patterns outside the scope of the long-term overall trend.

Wyoming's Outlook at a Glance

As Outlook 2000 makes clear early on, Wyoming's position in the national economy is influenced by forces which play a far greater role in this state than in most others. Integral to understanding the direction of Wyoming's economy are energy prices, tourism, federal domestic spending, and international trade policies.

While the national economy suffered through the recession of late 1990 and early 1991, Wyoming's economy remained healthy. Strong energy prices brought about by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait buoyed Wyoming's economy and slowed the national economy. The rate of growth in federal expenditures in Wyoming increased dramatically in 1990 and 1991, providing a further boost to the state economy. At the same time, Wyoming experienced net in-migration as a result of the weak national economy, especially in California. Moving into the mid-part of the 1990s, the national economy recovered, while Wyoming's rate of growth began to wane at mid-decade under depressed commodity prices, slower growth in federal spending, and a decline in migration into the state.

It is these structural shifts in federal funding, the oil and gas markets, and, to a lesser degree (although not unimportantly), GDP's influence on tourism and domestic spending that play such a large role in the Outlook 2000. Our approach in this publication is to project the impacts of basic structural elements into the future. One element of that structure that is becoming an increasingly important element of consideration is the demographics of labor supply. Structural factors (e.g., Wyoming's population size, resource base, employment diversification, relationship with the balance of the nation and world) change slowly over time. But, the aging of the baby boom generation is entering a period of relatively rapid demographic and sociological change, which may have substantive consequences in a number of arenas, chiefly in the area of labor supply.

The dilemma facing Wyoming's labor market is demand. Labor demand is dominated by the relatively lower wage Services and Retail Trade sectors, while an aging population and labor supply depend upon more substantial income opportunities. As a result, people are leaving the state in search of better income opportunities. This is supported by the most recent estimate of the state's population, which declined 0.1 percent from 1998 to 1999 to a level 479,602. Employment and wages may well grow as described in this forecast, but retention of the population continues to be problematic. When employment, unemployment rates, earnings levels, and wage rates are considered independently of one another, measuring the demand for labor can lead to mistaken interpretations about the market's overall trend. For example, total net employment growth of 27,450 Wyoming jobs is expected over the forecast period of 1998-2008. While growth of this magnitude is encouraging, it is necessary to examine the underlying quality of the jobs created. A purpose of Outlook 2000 is to bring the key economic, demographic and employment pieces together and present them in their mutual context.

A Note on the Data

The two state agencies responsible for this report are participants in State-Federal cooperative statistical programs. The employment numbers presented in this publication originate through collection of the data from employers and households in Wyoming. R&P, through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other federally funded programs, collects several types of employment and compensation information from employers. Each quarter, R&P compiles the employment and earnings of all employers covered by Unemployment Insurance (UI). Five to six months after the end of each quarter, these UI tax data are enhanced through editing and quality control measures and are released as total payroll, average wage, and a count of jobs worked. These data also form the bulk of the Personal Income series and serve as the basis for the computation of Gross State Product. More current establishment-based estimates of the number of jobs worked are published each month from a sample of Wyoming employers (later benchmarked to UI tax records) on a one-month lag basis. R&P also publishes labor force estimates on a one-month lagged basis. The labor force is an estimate of the number of persons working and the number of persons not working and actively seeking work. Used to compute the monthly estimate of the unemployment rate, the statistical process involves a household survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census under contract to BLS, R&P administrative data, and the monthly establishment survey. Finally, this report also contains occupational information. Occupational staffing patterns and associated wage rates are estimated from a sample-based survey of Wyoming employers.

The Division of Economic Analysis is the lead agency for the U.S. Census Bureau State Data Center (SDC) program, a State-Federal program that was established for the purpose of supporting and promoting the Census Bureau and its programs. The SDC also serves as the central repository for Census Bureau products and reports. Population estimates are developed in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of the Census, through the Federal-State Cooperative Program for Local Population Estimates (FSCPE). The Division was designated the official State FSCPE agency by Governor Mike Sullivan in 1990. The FSCPE was established for the purpose of developing consistent and jointly prepared county and subcounty estimates with complete statewide coverage through the use of established methods, comprehensive data review, and thorough testing.

1 Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Wyoming Industry & Occupational Projections 1996 - 2006; The Future of Wyoming's Labor Market.

Contents | Labor Market Information | Economic Analysis Division