© Copyright 2005 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 42 No. 7    


Using Labor Pool Migration Data to Retain Businesses and Attract Prospective Employers

by: Tony Glover, Senior Research Analyst

Campbell County has experienced relatively steady resident employment growth over the past 13 years as well as steady growth in the use of labor from surrounding counties.

Faced with rapid employment growth and a need to build an infrastructure to maintain, attract, and retain businesses and support economic development, localities need information for prospective employers considering relocation. Often their needs revolve around available labor. Wyoming has traditionally relied on a share of employment from nonresident labor. Combining Wyoming’s Wage Records data with recently developed resident/nonresident classifications (Jones, 2004) has enabled us to describe Wyoming’s workforce in more depth than ever before. Data presented here are useful to economic developers because they provide an accurate picture of labor availability in the surrounding geography, while demonstrating empirically where individuals are willing to commute from to work in a local area.

Reallocation of the Workforce Through In-Migration

From 1992 to 2003, between 14.5% and 19.8% of Wyoming’s employment consisted of nonresidents (see Table 1). Rapid employment growth during the years from 1999 to 2003 contributed to the 3.2 percentage point increase in the proportion of nonresidents employed in Wyoming in 1992 (15.5%) compared to the proportion working in 2003 (18.7%). While the difference of 3.2% seems small, it amounts to approximately 11,000 nonresident workers (roughly the population size of Evanston) in Wyoming’s labor market at some point during the year.

Table 2 and Figure 1 display the same information. In 2001 there were 64,046 nonresidents employed in Wyoming. In this article, we discuss where these workers came from and where they went.

During 2001 there were 323,901 persons employed in Wyoming: 64,046 nonresidents and 259,855 residents. Figure 1 presents worker migration over time with the left hand side representing the origin (in 2000) of those employed in Wyoming in 2001 and the right side representing their destination in 2002.

Of the 64,046 nonresidents employed in Wyoming in 2001, 17,296 were employed in Wyoming in 2000, 12,477 worked in one of our research partner states in 2000, and 34,273 were classified with a State of Origin as Employment Status and Whereabouts Unknown in 2000. Independent of residency status, 24,407 persons employed in Wyoming in 2001 originated in one of our research partner states and 66,258 had an origin of Employment Status and Whereabouts Unknown. This means that of the total 323,901 persons working in Wyoming in 2001, 90,665 (28.0%) did not work in Wyoming in 2000.

A large portion of those employed in Wyoming in 2001 did not continue working in Wyoming in 2002. There were 55,603 persons classified as Employment Status and Whereabouts Unknown in 2002 and 28,704 persons who were working in partner research states for a total of 84,307 persons. In other words, 26.0% of those employed in Wyoming in 2001 were not employed in Wyoming in 2002.

Even though we have a large portion of nonresident employment in Wyoming, we retained a share of these workers. We added 90,665 to our labor market from 2000 to 2001 and lost 84,307 from 2001 to 2002, giving us a net gain of 6,358.

Reallocation of the Workforce Through Expanded Commuting and Geographic Relocation

Research & Planning (R&P) was recently asked for data to support infrastructure development in Wyoming’s Northeast Region. More specifically the North East Wyoming Economic Development Coalition (NEWEDC) asked for a time series demonstrating the growth in the number of persons commuting from Crook County to Campbell County. While Campbell County is experiencing rapid employment growth due to expansion in the oil and gas industry (coal-bed methane development), a large percentage of the labor associated with this growth resides elsewhere. The populations of communities in Crook County, like Moorcroft and Pine Haven, are growing to support their neighboring county’s economic expansion. This growth is occurring with an absence of funding to develop the necessary infrastructure (e.g., roads and sanitation).

Table 3 shows persons employed in Campbell County by their origin of residence from first quarter 1992 (1992Q1) to 2004Q3. After reviewing the far right column of those residing in Crook County and working in Campbell County, it is clear that the number has more than doubled over the decade (1995 to 2004). In 2001, the percentage of persons working in Campbell County who resided elsewhere hit an all time high of 7,024 persons (29.0%). The 7,024 commuters include the 658 commuting between Crook and Campbell counties and a large percentage of persons who work in Campbell County, but whose residence is unknown. It is possible that with a housing shortage in the Gillette area (Payne, 2001) some of the persons with unknown residences (in addition to the 658 identified) may reside in Crook County.

Figure 2 shows the data from Table 3 with expanded residence categories. A review of Figure 2 reveals that Campbell County has experienced relatively steady Resident Employed employment growth over the past 13 years. It also shows the corresponding steady growth in the use of labor from surrounding counties. There was dramatic growth in the number of those employed in Campbell County with unknown residence (mostly nonresidents recently relocating to Campbell and surrounding counties) during the years 2001 to 2004.

As Figure 2 shows, the largest share of workers live and work in Campbell County. However, a substantial portion of workers commute to Campbell County from other counties. In addition, another share of Campbell County residents commute to locations outside the county for work.

Inflow and outflow commuting features are identified in Figure 3, which provides three examples of commuting patterns (Natrona, Campbell, and Crook counties). Commuting pattern data are currently available for all counties in Wyoming. Referring to the graph of Natrona County, a bar is given for each year from 1994 to 2003. The bars above the zero line represent the total inflow. The gray bar represents Wyoming residents from other counties who commute to Natrona County to work, while the white bar represents nonresident commuters to Natrona County. Outflow from Natrona County appears as bars below the zero line and represent persons residing in Natrona County but who are employed in another county in Wyoming. The line graph portion connecting the diamonds near the top of the inflow bars represents Natrona County’s Net Flow or the Inflow minus the Outflow. In contrast to Natrona County, Crook County has a negative Net Flow with a large portion of its population commuting to Campbell County. It should be noted that the factors influencing employment growth in Natrona County are also influencing Campbell County.


Findings presented in this article seem to indicate ample workers to fill vacancies created by new businesses and business expansion. Even though just over one-quarter of Wyoming’s workforce tends to leave the state annually, the volume of in-migration not only replaces those exiting workers but increases the state’s workforce by several thousand.

The relative isolation of Wyoming communities might encourage the assumption that workers seek employment locally. However, research on commuting patterns in the northeastern region of the state suggests otherwise. The apparent willingness of Wyoming workers to commute could potentially recruit new businesses who may have been reluctant to relocate for fear of insufficient local labor.


Jones, S. (2004). Worker Residency determination - Wyoming stepwise procedure. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 41(8). Retrieved May 26, 2005, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/0804/a1supp.htm 

Payne, B. (2001). An analysis of growth in housing stock and population: 1990-2000. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 38(6). Retrieved May 17, 2005, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/0601/a2.htm 





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