Fewer Youth Working in Wyoming

Tables and Figures

This article examines the hiring rate for youth ages 18-20 in Wyoming, the total hires for all ages, and the industries in Wyoming with the most new hires over the last 10 years. This article is part of a series which will examine hiring patterns for youth and other workers in the state, and seek to answer the question of how different age groups interact with the labor market in Wyoming. The series will compare the long-term employment opportunities available to young people with other segments of the workforce.

“Here is the situation. For decades Wyoming has had challenges keeping our kids in Wyoming after they graduate. Research shows that of all 18-year-olds working in Wyoming, on any given year, only an estimated 40 percent are still working in Wyoming 10 years later. We’re losing 60 percent of our greatest talent.”

– Governor Matt Mead, 2015 State of the State

The migration of youth from Wyoming has long been a concern for educators, policymakers, and workforce development personnel. In 2012, the Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services published a study titled, A Decade Later: Tracking Wyoming’s Youth Into the Labor Force, which sought to answer the questions of where youth go when they leave the state and what industries they find work in after they leave. Findings of the study indicated that youth in Wyoming “appear to have difficulty finding jobs in industries that require a higher education, such as health care & social assistance, educational services, and public administration” (Glover, 2012). Other key findings of the study include the retention rate for 18-year-olds from each year from 1992 to 2006, which was 55.8%. Because the migration of youth is an issue affecting so many in the state, R&P analyzed the hiring patterns for 18- to 20-year-olds during the last decade.

The number of youths ages 18-20 in Wyoming’s workforce has declined by 22% over the last decade. Despite recent growth in the economy, “overall employment remained approximately 2,250 jobs (0.1%) below its first quarter 2008 level. In short, the state has yet to make up all the job losses of 2009 and 2010” (Bullard, 2014). Identifying the types of jobs people are finding as the labor market seeks to reach its 2008 level, and whether all segments of the workforce are having equal success in job attainment, may inform workforce development policy decisions. Analysis of hiring rates includes the total hire rate by quarter for the last decade and the total number of hires by age and industry for Wyoming for first quarter 2014 (2014Q1).

Table 1
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5

From 2004Q1 to 2014Q1, the number of youths ages 18-20 working in Wyoming dropped from 17,846 to 13,817, a decline of 4,029, or -22% (see Table). The peak quarter for hiring workers ages 18-20 in the last decade was 2005Q2 with 11,708 young people hired in the state. In 2010Q1 the number of young people hired fell to 3,749. Part of the reason for the decline in hiring activity over the past decade may be due to a decrease in population of youth ages 18-20 residing in Wyoming. As seen in Figure 1, since 2010Q1 the hiring trend for all ages increased 14.4%, while the hiring trend for youth only increased 3.8% (see Figure 2). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2014), the population of 18-20 year olds in Wyoming from 2003 to 2013 decreased from 24,941 to 23,506 (-1,435, or -5.8%).

Since 2004, slightly more males than females ages 18-20 have been hired in Wyoming. There were the most hires of female workers ages 18-20 in 2002Q2 and the fewest in 2010Q1 (see Figure 3). Hires for male workers ages 18-20 peaked in 2001Q2 and were the lowest in 2010Q1. Since the economic downturn in 2009, hires of males and females have been closer to equal. In 2014Q1, young males made up 52% of new hires and young females made up 48% of new hires for those ages 18-20.

As seen in Figure 4, there were 44,034 hires in Wyoming for all industries and all age groups in 2014Q1. The majority of hires were in the leisure and hospitality industry (9,355 hires, or 21%) and the construction industry (5,838 hires, or 13%). Industries with the fewest hires were agriculture, forestry, fishing, & hunting (389 hires) and information (453 hires).

In 2014Q1, there were 4,174 hires in Wyoming for youth ages 18-20. The majority of hires for youth ages 18-20 were found in the leisure and hospitality (1,373 hires, or 33%) and retail trade (870 hires, or 21%; see Figure 5) industries. Industries hiring less than 1% of youth were agriculture, forestry, fishing, & hunting (27 hires) and information (29 hires).

R&P conducts a New Hires Survey and has done so since 2009. The survey “collects information about newly hired employees in Wyoming,” and includes information on “duties, wages and benefits, necessary licenses or certifications” (Knapp, 2012). The survey also asks about what skills employers deem important for the job.

With fewer young people being hired in Wyoming, it is possible that those ages 18 to 20 are delaying their first work experience, and the development of skills important to employers. For example, many young people find their first jobs in the retail trade industry – where 90% of employers surveyed said that service orientation was important to the job. In the same survey, only a third (33.7%) of employers were satisfied with their newly hired employees’ skills. The chance for a young person to develop skills like service orientation and other soft skills is critical for long-term success in the labor market, even in highly technical occupations (Bailey, 2014). The New Hires Survey finds that skills like critical thinking and operation and control are also in high demand across occupations. For more information on the New Hires Survey, please visit http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/newhires.htm


Declining numbers of youth in Wyoming’s workforce may have many consequences. Lost or delayed exposure to early work experience may contribute to a lack of soft skills when youth do finally enter the labor market. Skills employers want like customer service and critical thinking may be missing or underdeveloped in newly hired workers. In addition, those workers with fewer skills and less experience may lose their jobs first during an economic downturn. While it is clear that the hiring rate for persons ages 18-20 was lower than other segments of the workforce over the last decade, it is not clear if hiring rate is due to older workers hanging onto their jobs as the economy recovers, or simply fewer youth choosing to work. The next article in the series will compare hiring rates for youth ages 18-20 with older segements of the workforce in Wyoming.


Bailey, J. L. (2014). Non-technical skills for success in a technical world. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 5(4). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1519689798?accountid=29653

Bullard, D. (2014). Local jobs and payroll in Wyoming in first quarter 2014: Oil and gas jobs come back and overall growth accelerates. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 51(10). Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/1014/toc.htm

Glover, T. (2012). A decade later: Tracking Wyoming’s youth into the labor force. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/w_r_research/A_Decade_Later.pdf

Knapp, L. (2012). Even during an economic downturn, Wyoming employers continued to hire new workers. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 49(6). Retrieved January 27, 2015, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0612/toc.htm

State of the State Address. (2015). Retrieved February 13, 2015 from http://governor.wyo.gov/media/documents/

U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.) Annual estimates of the resident population for selected age groups by sex for the United States, states, counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

Table of Contents

March 2015, Vol. 52 No. 3

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