trends_flag Research and Planning r_and_p Department of Workforce Services State of Wyoming

A Decade Later: Tracking Wyoming's Youth into the Labor Force

See related tables and figures

Wyoming’s young workers tend to leave the state’s labor force in large numbers. This article tracks a specific group over time of workers who were 18 years old in 2000 and earned the majority of their wages in Wyoming. After 10 years, only approximately 4 of every 10 of these workers were still found in Wyoming’s labor force.

Selected Research on Wyoming's Aging Population

Bottom line: if the boom generation retires at a normal rate, there will be many opportunities for the educated youth of Wyoming.

Previous research conducted by the Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services has demonstrated that the population of Wyoming is aging faster than the nation and many bordering states (see related box). The baby boomers of Wyoming are retaining their employment in relatively stable jobs in the natural resources & mining, health care & social services, educational services, and public administration industries. A result of the attachment of older workers is a loss of opportunity for the youth of Wyoming to obtain and retain employment in this state. A common belief is that Wyoming’s primary exports are coal, oil & gas, and young workers.

This article provides the context and explores issues related to exporting Wyoming’s youth and lays a foundation to better understand forthcoming research on the Hathaway Scholarship program (see related box), which provides tuition assistance to Wyoming’s youth who attend the state’s colleges and university.

Studying the Hathaway Scholarship Program

The Wyoming State Legislature allocated money in 2005 for the creation of a merit-based scholarship program for Wyoming students to continue their education subsequent to high school graduation at Wyoming's colleges and university. The Hathaway Scholarship program awards a graduated amount of funding to Wyoming students who complete certain core educational requirements during their high school education while maintaining a designated grade point average. In 2012 the Legislature allocated funding to assess the long-term impact of the Hathaway Scholarship program on retaining youth in Wyoming's post-secondary institutions and subsequently into the state's labor force. The first round of graduates who participated in the Hathaway program are now reaching the point at which they could acquire a four-year degree and enter post-graduate employment. Research & Planning has been tasked with "collection and analysis of data necessary for the long-term effects of the Hathaway student scholarship program on Wyoming high school students" (HB0001-General government appropriations, Section 326 [d]). The intent of the collection and analysis of this data is to learn more about the "employment, location of employment, and earnings level after leaving a post-secondary education program at a college or the university" (Session Laws of Wyoming, 2008, Ch. 95).

The current research describes characteristics of a cohort (group) of 18-year-olds employed in Wyoming in 2000 in relation to Wyoming’s labor force across time. The analysis will answer the following questions:

  1. Where do the youth go?
  2. Are more males than females retained in Wyoming’s labor force?
  3. What is the typical industry career path of those retained? Where do they start and where do they wind up?
  4. Are the characteristics of 18-year-old workers from 2000 similar to other cohorts?
  5. How can this type of analysis be used to better understand the outcomes of a program like the Hathaway Scholarship?

The bottom line is that of all 18-year-olds working in Wyoming from any given year, only an estimated 40% are still working in Wyoming 10 years later.

The data used in this article were collected from the unemployment insurance tax systems of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Additional databases allowed for the collection of demographic (age & gender) data on the youth studied. Future research will incorporate the data from program participants that received a Hathaway Scholarship or other education and training program assistance. It is important to keep in mind that the data described in this article represent a population of which the scholarship program participants would be a subset, had such a program been in place in 2000.

Methodology & Definitions

The cohort for this analysis is defined as all individuals who were 18 years old and had Wyoming as their primary state of wages in 2000. The primary state of wages is defined as the state in which the individual, identified by social security number (SSN), was paid the most wages in a given year. Likewise, the primary industry of wages is the major industry paying the individual the most wages in a given year. For example, any or all of individuals assigned to the 2000 cohort could have had wages in any or all of the states discussed in this article in 2000, but each individual was paid the most wages in Wyoming during that year. This defines an anchor point of all of the data and individuals discussed in this article. Individuals who were 18 years old in 2000 with wages in Wyoming but were paid more wages in any other state are excluded from this research. Wages for the excluded individuals demonstrate a stronger connection to a state other than Wyoming. Analysis of industry of employment reveals that many of these individuals were seasonal labor in the leisure & hospitality or construction industries.

Table 1
Figure 1a

Figure 1b

As of April 1, 2000, there were 8,257 18-year-olds living in Wyoming (U.S. Census Bureau); fall enrollment of Wyoming high school seniors in 2000 was 6,851 (Wyoming Department of Education). The first column of Table 1 shows that there were 7,325 individuals employed at any time in 2000 in Wyoming who were 18 years old and whose primary state of wages was Wyoming (2000 cohort). The same definition of primary state of wages described in the methodology section is applied to the subsequent years and results for 2001 to 2010. Of the original cohort of 7,325 individuals, only 5,980 (81.6%) remained in Wyoming in 2001, 540 (7.4%) transitioned to a state with which R&P has a data sharing agreement (partner state), and 805 (11.0%) cannot be accounted for within the available administrative databases. By 2010, the number of the original cohort of 7,325 dwindled to 3,517 (48.0%) in Wyoming, 1,252 (17.1%) in a partner state, and 2,556 (34.9%) are unaccounted for by the databases used in this analysis. This is illustrated in Figure 1a. The trend presented in this figure is relatively consistent across all cohorts, or groups of 18-year-old workers from 1992 to 2010 (see Figure 1b).

Figure 2

The trend presented in Figures 1a and 1b is consistent with prior research conducted by R&P. A similar exodus from the Wyoming workforce can be seen in Figure 2, which tracks a cohort of Wyoming workers age 16-34 from 2000 to 2007 (Jones, 2009).

Figure 3

Table 2

Defining "Unknown"

For the purposes of this article, "unknown" refers to individuals who moved to a state with which R&P does not have a data sharing agreement, those who exited the labor force for other reasons, and those who are deceased. R&P has the capability to examine other paths in the unknown category, but it is beyond the scope of the current article. The "unknown" category also includes self-employed individuals, and employees of railroads, the federal government, and the armed forces.

Figure 3 shows where the 2000 cohort had wages a decade later. Those retained in Wyoming comprised the largest category in 2010 (48.0%) followed by the category labeled "unknown" (34.9%). The unknown category includes individuals who went to a state with which R&P does not have a data sharing agreement, those who exited the labor force for other reasons, and those who are deceased. R&P has the capability to examine other paths in the unknown category, but it is beyond the scope of the current article.

Figure 4

Figure 5

Table 3

Figure 6

Table 2 is similar to Table 1 and shows the 2000 cohort by gender. Figure 4 shows that males (52.8%) were more often retained in Wyoming than females (43.2%). Figure 5 shows a gender breakdown of the location of the cohort’s wages a decade later. The exodus to partner states is comparable between males and females. The largest difference between the two genders was that 39.8% of females fell into the unknown category in 2010, versus 30.0% of males. Finding fewer females working 10 years later (at age 28) and more in the unknown category is consistent with national data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). In 2011, 78.3% of men between 25-29 years old were working, while 67.3% of women of the same age were working (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).

Table 3 and Figure 6 show the industry distribution of the 2000 cohort both in 2000 and 2010. In 2000, the largest number of workers from this cohort had wages in leisure & hospitality (36.0%) and retail trade (23.3%). By 2010, the remaining 3,517 individuals from the original cohort had moved into industries more synonymous with long-term employment in Wyoming, including health care & social assistance, educational services, natural resources & mining, and construction. All of these industries also experienced significant growth in total employment from 2000 to 2010.


This article demonstrates the use of administrative databases to track Wyoming youth across time. The applications are endless and the current research only touched briefly on a multitude of areas that lend themselves to exploration.

A question posed in the introduction to this piece – "Are the characteristics of the youth of 2000 similar to other cohorts?" – is answered by Figure 2, which shows the retention rates for all cohorts available to R&P. The five-year retention rate for individuals with Wyoming as their primary state of wages when they were 18 years old varies between 45.7% for the 1994 cohort and 63.3% for the 2005 cohort. The upper and lower bounds of the 10-year retention rates are 37.0% for the 1993 cohort and 49.8% for the 2001 cohort, respectively. The average five-year retention rate is 55.8%, while the average 10-year retention rate is 43.8%.

Some of the variation in retention rates for different cohorts across time can be explained by economic conditions in Wyoming. For example, the 2001 to 2005 youth appeared to have higher retention rates for the first few years than all other cohorts (see the top bundle of lines in Figure 1b). This could be influenced by Wyoming’s rapid growth in employment from 2000 to 2009. Future research will focus on defining and describing the opportunity structure available to Wyoming’s youth.

Figure 7

The last question asked at the beginning of this article was, “How can this type of analysis be used to better understand the outcomes of a program like the Hathaway Scholarship?” The Hathaway Scholarship program provides funds to Wyoming students to attend state colleges or the university based upon students’ curriculum in a Wyoming high school. If a long-term goal of the Hathaway program is to retain well-educated youth in Wyoming’s labor force, then the retention rates of the Hathaway participants can be calculated as a sub-group of the cohorts described in this paper. Figure 7 is a hypothetical example of what this would look like. The gray line is the average retention rate of all of the cohorts. The top line represents a higher percentage of Hathaway participants retained in Wyoming employment (success) and the bottom line represents a lower percentage of Hathaway participants retained (failure).

Workforce Information Supervisor Tony Glover can be contacted at (307) 473-3826 or


Jones, S.D. (2009). Workforce challenges: gender wage gap, loss of young wokers, education requirements, and need for nurses. Wyoming Workforce Annual Report 2009. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (March 2012). Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race. Retrieved March 29, 2012, from

U.S. Census Bureau. American Fact Finder. Retrieved March 21, 2012, from

Wyoming Department of Education. Retrieved March 21, 2012, from