During the first half of 2015, Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims in Wyoming increased substantially from 2014 levels, especially in the mining industry. This increase was due in large part to the loss of jobs that resulted from lower oil and natural gas prices and the decline in the number of drilling rigs exploring for oil and natural gas (Liu, 2015).
UI claims are measured in terms of initial and continued claims. Initial claims represent persons who just lost their jobs and applied for UI benefits. According to Wen (2009), initial claims are the “best indicator of new layoffs, although some unemployed workers choose not to apply for UI benefits.” This article focuses on continued claims, which are measured in the total number of weeks claimed, and a person may claim more than one week of benefits during a given period. In June 2015, for example, there were 6,431 unique claimants and 22,293 total continued weeks claimed in Wyoming.
As shown in Figure 1, there was a slight slowdown in Wyoming’s employment and wages during first quarter 2015 (2015Q1), but employment and wage growth remained positive, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). At the time this article was published, the most current employment and wage counts from QCEW for Wyoming at the county and industry level were for 2014Q4. Employment and wage counts for 2015Q1 by county and industry will be published in the October 2015 issue of Wyoming Labor Force Trends and will be available online at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/toc_202.htm.
The QCEW data in Figure 1 are consistent with the continued UI claims data presented in Table 1 and Figure 2, which show that continued claims decreased from previous year levels in January and February of 2015 before increasing in March 2015. In January, for example, continued claims had decreased 13.8% from January 2014. But by June 2015, continued claims had increased 67.5% from June 2014. Figure 2 shows that continued claims steadily declined after the economic downturn that lasted from 2009Q1 to 2010Q1, but showed an upward trend during the first half of 2015.
As shown in Figure 3, continued claims in mining remained relatively flat during the period of rapid economic growth from 2005 to 2008, then increased substantially during the period of economic downturn from 2009Q1 to 2010Q1. Continued claims again remained flat during a period of moderate growth beginning in 2010Q2 as Wyoming continued to recover from the economic downturn. However, continued claims in mining increased considerably during the first half of 2015. In June 2015, continued claims increased 416.5% from June 2014 (see Table 2).
As shown in Figure 4, the counties with the highest percentage over-the-year increases in continued UI claims in June 2015 were those in which the mining industry accounts for a significant portion of all jobs. The most substantial increases from 2014 were seen in Campbell (198.3%), Converse (163.1%), Natrona (137.9%), Sublette (133.3%), Washakie (110.6%), and Sweetwater (103.4%) counties.
Policymakers, employers, and workers should also keep in mind the effect a change like this could have on other state programs, such as workers’ compensation. R&P has published evidence that workers’ compensation recipients tend to claim those benefits longer when Wyoming experiences an economic downturn (Manning, 2012). During the previously mentioned downturn of 2009Q1 to 2010Q1, for example, the mean duration of workers’ compensation claims was significantly higher (19.2 weeks) than during the period prior to the downturn (15.4 weeks).
Initial and continued UI claims data are available online at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/ui.htm, and are also published monthly in Wyoming Labor Force Trends (see Initial Claims and Continued Claims for May 2015). A forthcoming Trends article will present a more in-depth look at UI claims and claimants.
Liu, W. (2015). State of Wyoming Department of Administration and Information Economic Analysis Division. Economic Summary: 1Q2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015, from http://eadiv.state.wy.us/wef/Economic_Summary1Q15.pdf
Manning, P. (2012). Do claimants stay on workers’ compensation longer during tough economic times? Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 49(5). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0512/a1.htm
Wen, S. (2009). Wyoming UI claims reach 22-year high in first quarter; payments hit all-time high. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 46(6). Retrieved July 17, 2015, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/0609/a1.htm