Chapter 1

Wyoming Workforce and Industry

The subjects of this chapter are labor market demand, supply, and the dynamic commerce between them. Developing an understanding of the detailed interactions between industries, firms, jobs, and individuals requires an identification of where the current workforce works. And because worker needs, expectations, and experience are associated with age and gender, we also need to describe the demographic characteristics of the workforce. We begin with the recent behavior of industries and firms.

Where Are the Jobs?

Net job growth refers to changes in the level of employment. As we can see in Table 1-1 over the period 1996 to 1998, for all firms having employment in all three years (1995 to ensure that the firm is established, and subsequently in 1996 through 1998), the net number of jobs increased by 2.4 percent. However, not all firms experienced growth over that same period; what is true of the population of firms is not true about each firm. The answer to the question of job growth is that it is a function of industrial sector and other firm characteristics (e.g., the age, location, and size of the firm). 3 Before we can investigate the breadth and depth of the detailed interactions between industries, firms, jobs, and individuals, we need to identify where the current workforce works. We also need to define in general terms some of the demographic characteristics of the workforce.

Table 1-1 shows firm and employment growth by industry for the period 1996 to 1998. For all industries, employment grew from 198,405 to 203,162 jobs, or 2.4 percent. Three of the ten major industries, Mining, Construction, and Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE) showed significant growth in total employment for this period (11.5%, 9.3%, and 7.1%, respectively). However, even though industries may grow, not all firms4 in those growth industries exhibit the same behavior.

Within Mining, for example, Table 1-1 shows that 27.4 percent of 507 Mining firms accounted for the highest rates of employment growth in that industry (growth exceeding 25.5%), with 22.5 percent of these firms reducing their employment by 18.8 percent or more. Metal mining firms were responsible for 47.1 percent of the highest growth category within the Mining industry. The overall picture that emerges is one where roughly half of all Mining firms grew and the other half declined in employment, providing a very dynamic labor market.

A similar pattern emerges for the Construction industry in which 30.5 percent of 1,681 firms experienced the highest rate (25.5%) of employment growth. On the other hand, a significant 24.2 percent experienced serious declines in employment (18.8% or more). Only 14.2 percent of firms in Construction remained fairly stable over the three-year period (-0.8% to 3.9%). The occupations and skills associated with Mining and Construction jobs, especially heavy construction, are often similar. Where employment skills are transferable between industries and firms, we would expect to see these similar patterns in employment growth.

Simultaneous decline and growth among firms in the same industry, or firms which are likely to have common occupational and skills needs implies a great deal of churning in the movement of labor between firms.

FIRE and Wholesale Trade, both which experienced more modest growth in total employment between 1996-1998, display a different pattern of growth than Mining and Construction. If it were charted, employment growth for these industries would be represented by a bell curve. The largest percent of firms in these two industries (roughly two-thirds) shared in the employment growth that occurred. Only 15.2 percent of FIRE firms and 17.0 percentage of Wholesale Trade firms experienced serious declines in employment.

More than one-third (4,491) of all Wyoming firms fall within the Services industry. So in large part, it more closely reflects general trends in employment growth represented by the categories used in Table 1-1. Approximately 20 percent of Services firms are represented in each of the five categories. The diversity of firms and functions represented within the Services industry veils the dynamic level of employment change that occurs within some of this major industry's subcategories. For example, Services includes some emerging industries using new technologies (e.g., Internet-based companies, categorized under the generic label of business services, educational services, or health services). It also includes traditional services (e.g., legal services or domestic workers in private households) whose employment growth is associated more often than not with population size.

The underlying dynamic of demand may be highly turbulent even where industry growth is stagnant. In Retail Trade, for example, change in total employment declined by only -0.1 percent, representing the industry as relatively stable in its employment level. Yet, nearly half of all firms recorded employment decreases, placing them in the two lower employment growth categories. Adding the two lowest growth categories reveals a majority of apparel & accessory stores (53.3%), eating and drinking places (51.8%), food stores (50.0%), and general merchandise stores (65.0%) experienced decreases in employment below -0.8 percent. Only 12.3 percent of firms, a smaller percentage than in any other major industry, fell in the middle category representing stable employment. Therefore, in many of the Retail industries, fewer firms are responsible for the highest percentage of employment growth. This trend may represent growth at various shopping hubs across Wyoming, at the expense of retail employment in smaller firms and in less-connected communities.

How Do We Count Jobs?

Table 1-2 demonstrates the differences that exist between the two data sets Research & Planning (R&P) relies on to conduct and report labor market analyses. Differences in the numbers of total jobs that R&P uses in this report and those published in Where Are the Jobs? What Do They Pay?: 1998 Annual Covered Employment and Wages can be explained by the time lag between the two publications. Table 1-2 represents this total count of jobs (220,665) under the heading, "All (UI) Covered Jobs."

Our present study primarily limits itself to tracking only "State UI Covered Jobs," because our Wage Records Database (which contains information on individuals and their demographic-economic characteristics) does not include federal employees.5 Federal employees are exempt from State UI Coverage. Because one of our purposes here is to show the relationship between different units of analysis (e.g., jobs and individuals), we need to limit comparisons we make to the total count of actual jobs (213,551) held by the number of individuals (295,610) on whom we have employment and wage information. Therefore, we exclude the 3.2 percent of Wyoming jobs relating to federal employment from the analysis.

The job count in Table 1-2 represents the average number of jobs or "positions" held each month in 1998 (N = 213,551). During 1998, 295,610 persons occupied those positions or jobs. At any point in time during 1998, 295,610 persons were interacting with 213,551 jobs located in more than 13,100 firms (see Tables 1-1 and 2-7). These firms were themselves undergoing expansion and contraction.

Characteristics of Wyoming's Workforce

R&P has few facts as descriptive of Wyoming's workforce and as straightforward to communicate as age, gender, and earnings. This section provides a composite snapshot of these employee characteristics. (See Appendix A, Section 1a, for detailed sources of labor force and demographic data.)

Of the 295,610 persons who worked at any time during 1998 (see Appendix B), 42.0 percent of all workers were male, 37.3 percent female, with information on gender unavailable for 20.7 percent of our records. If the ratio of males to females (1.13) in the workforce for whom we have gender information is applied to those for whom gender information is not available, the workforce is estimated to be 47 percent female and 53 percent male.

Figures 1-1 describe the distribution of employees by gender among 10 major (UI covered) industrial categories. Each pie chart identifies the proportion of male and female employees within a major industry. Highly detailed data on gender distribution are included in Appendix B. The segment of each pie chart labeled "Not Available" (N.A.) indicates the percentage of employment for which demographic information relating to gender is currently unavailable.6

The pie charts show that males constitute the largest segment of the workforce in the Goods Producing sector: Agriculture, Mining, Construction, and Manufacturing. Detailed industry specific data in Appendix B, for example, show that 69.4 percent of all individuals working in durable goods manufacturing are male. Males also form a majority in Transportation, Communications, & Public Utilities (TCPU) and Wholesale Trade. Mining and TCPU, where males comprise about three-fourths of employment, traditionally offer the highest average wages among industries. By comparison, female employment is concentrated in Retail Trade, FIRE, Services, and Government. Retail Trade and Services employ the largest numbers of all Wyoming employees; they also traditionally pay among the lowest average wages. Government includes local school districts as well as public administrative agencies, so a large percentage of female employment in Government can be attributed to the occupations of public school teachers and administrative staff.

The distribution of age in Wyoming's workforce is clearly reflective of the distribution of age in the population in general. Persons aged 35 to 44 years dominate the market. This age group made up 26.3 percent of the workforce in 1998 while those aged 45 to 54 made up 20.6 percent, and those aged 25 to 34 comprised 20.9 percent. (These estimates are determined by prorating the number of persons for which demographic information is not available, 20.7 percent, to each age category defined in Appendix C.) In effect, over the course of the projection's period (1998 to 2008) a large share of Wyoming's workforce will mature into the age category (45-54) of greatest wage and salary earnings (see Table 1-3 and Appendix E).

Figures 1-2 provide a series of bar charts identifying the number of employees by age group within each major industry. Tabular data detailed by industry on these age groups are available in Appendix C. The count of employees for whom demographic information is missing is identified with "N.A." Agriculture, Construction, Retail Trade, and Services have the highest proportion of missing demographics. (See Appendix A, Section 1b for a discussion.)

Comparing the bar charts shows that most young workers (those in the <16, 16-19, and 20-24 age groups, for whom detailed data are found in Appendix C) found primary employment in 1998 in Retail Trade (18,642) and Services (11,134), with a fair number in Construction (4,302). These industries, therefore, are more dependent than most on a steady supply of young workers. This dependency is understated in the bar charts because of the higher number of employees in these industries for whom demographics are not known.

Mining, Manufacturing, TCPU, Wholesale Trade, FIRE, and Government all employ a substantial percentage of workers between the ages of 45 and 54. These individuals, born between the years 1946-1955, comprise the first half of the "baby boom" generation. They will reach the traditional retirement age, or may have an option to retire early in the next 10-15 years. Chapter 2 discusses retirement as a factor in replacement need. Many of the firms in these six industries will begin to face challenges over the 1998-2008 period brought on by demographic change among their incumbent workers.

Appendix D includes a table illustrating the annual percent change occurring in the various age groups over the decade 1990-1999. During the 1990-1999 period, the median age of Wyomingites increased to 36.1 from 32.0 years. Populations of only two other states, Montana and Vermont, aged more quickly than Wyoming. While the median age of the nation grew by 2.4 years, Wyoming's more rapid aging reflects the out-migration of individuals in the 20-34 year-old age group and a deficit in the relative share of this age group in Wyoming's labor force compared to the country as a whole. Montana (+3.7 years) and North Dakota (+3.5 years) demonstrated similar rates of growth suggesting that the out-migration of youth is, to some extent, a regional phenomenon. In the near term, the inability of the state to retain the 20-34 year-old age group may serve as a constraint on a more rapid expansion and diversification of the economy. Late in the next decade, the loss of this population group can affect our ability to replace those leaving the labor market as mature members of the boom generation begin reaching traditional retirement age.7

The earnings of individuals are associated with work opportunities available and demographic characteristics. Worker attachment and utilization will be discussed in Chapter 2.

In Table 1-3 we can see quite clearly that earnings are associated with both age and gender.8 For both genders, earnings increase with age, peaking for the age group 45-54 and declining thereafter. Earnings for both males and females double from age group 20 to 24 to age group 25 to 34.

Earnings for young females, however, are lower than for males and never catch up to males among older age groups. Earnings for females (ages 20-24) at $6,748, on average in 1998, reflect 65.9 percent of the earnings of males ($10,234). However, by the peak earnings years (ages 45-54) females earn only 53.3 percent ($18,962) of the level earned by males ($37,243). As we can see from Appendix E, the gap in earnings between males and females at the peak earnings age level (45-54) is associated with the industry of employment.

The earnings gap between males and females in the age category of peak earnings (45-54) is much lower in Government (where females earn $22,681 on average or 67.6 percent of male earnings ($33,567), Construction (65.1%), Mining (65.0%), and TCPU (58.2%). The earnings gap is much greater in Services where women, at the peak of their earnings age bracket, earn only 44.2 percent ($16,099) of male earnings ($36,389). In Retail Trade, females earn only 44.6 percent of their male counterparts. The faster growing private sector Services Producing industries are also the industries with the widest gap in earnings between males and females. As the baby boom generation of Wyoming matures and as Services employment grows, so too, does the gap in earnings between males and females.

In summary, over the forecast horizon, 26.3 percent of the workforce (those aged 35 to 44 in 1998) will be aging into their peak earnings years. In contrast, given the stronger anticipated growth of lower wage private sector Services Producing industries, and the larger gap in earnings for the 47.0 percent of the workforce that is female in those expanding industries, it is unclear to what extent the earnings over the forecast period will be sufficient to maintain the current workforce in Wyoming.

3 Sherry Yu, "Update: New Business Formation in Wyoming," Wyoming Labor Force Trends, January 1999. See also, Mike Evans, "Which Type of Businesses Create Jobs for Wyoming's Economy?" Wyoming Labor Force Trends, September 1999.

4 Table 1-1 includes only those firms with employment in all three years, 1996, 1997, and 1998.

5 Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Wyoming Wage Records 1992-1998: A Baseline Study.

6 These individuals did not appear on any of the administrative databases Research & Planning uses for purposes of matching demographic data to wage records through common SSNs.

7 Wyoming Department of Employment, Office of Workforce Development, Wyoming Unified Plan, Chapter 1, Section II (D)(2), Submitted 30 December 1999, (August 17, 2000).

8 Rich Peters, " The Importance of Major Industry to Wyoming's Gender Pay Gap, Part One," Wyoming Labor Force Trends, July 2000. This is the first of a three part series planned for publication in Trends. Therefore, the discussion on gender and earnings in this publication is limited to a brief description.

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Last modified on August 10, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.