This special report, produced by the Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) in partnership with Wyoming Workforce Development Council, provides a snapshot of the labor market analysis component for Wyoming’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Unified State Plan.
In the fall of 2015, Wyoming’s economy was exposed to a substantial decline in the prices of oil, an extended period of low natural gas prices, and the erosion in the price of coal. While the recent dramatic decrease in oil prices and the developing reduction in the demand for other carbon-based fuels drove the demand for labor in mining sharply downward beginning in the early spring of 2015, it also appears that the structure of demand for these commodities has made an historic turn affecting the long-run future trend for labor.
Mining is a major economic engine of the Wyoming economy, both in direct employment and all industries that stem from this activity (e.g. transportation, food service, accommodation, etc.). Coal and oil/natural gas are the predominant drivers. Therefore, market conditions for these three commodities are very important to the Wyoming economy in terms of employment, gross state product, and government revenue. This chapter discusses the current situation and short-term forecasts for these three commodities.
Wyoming’s average annual unemployment rate for 2015 was 4.2%, up slightly from 4.1% in 2014 (not a significant change). This chapter explains how Wyoming’s unemployment rate remained relatively low in 2015, even with large job losses in Wyoming’s mining sector.
Wyoming’s unemployment insurance claims have historically been correlated to oil, gas, and coal prices. Low energy prices have persisted for more than a year, leading to questions about Wyoming’s economic future. This chapter describes the 2015 trends in unemployment insurance (UI) claims data and compares them to the previous downturn of 2009.
Wyoming has a porous labor market and competes for labor with other states that have more complex economies. Some Wyoming residents commute to other states for work, and Wyoming employers rely on workers from other states to fill a relatively large number of jobs. During 2015Q3, employment growth for Colorado and Utah was nearly 4% from 2014Q2, while Wyoming’s employment contracted by nearly 2%.
Because of Wyoming’s dependence on oil, coal, and gas, the existing demand for labor relies heavily on commodity prices and production. Since the year 2000, there have been two large commodity price changes: the first during the latter half of the U.S. Great Recession, 2007 to 2009 and the second in late 2014 and early 2015. The over-the-year percentage change in average monthly employment in Wyoming closely follows the price of oil.