"Labor Market Information (LMI) is an applied science; it is the systematic collection and analysis of data which describes and predicts the relationship between labor demand and supply." The States' Labor Market Information Review, ICESA, 1995, p. 7.
Abstract: This article examines changes in the demographics of Wyoming’s labor market in recent years. In particular, the article looks at changes during the most recent economic downturn, which was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and declines in the prices of and demand for the state’s energy resources. The demographic data discussed in this article are available at https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/demographics.htm.
by: Michael Moore, Research Supervisor
The Research & Planning (R&P) section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services publishes detailed demographics tables on an annual basis. These tables contain information such as total number of workers, average annual wage, average number of quarters worked, and average number of employers worked for by gender and age group, and presented by county and industry.
It is important to note that any individual who had wages in Wyoming at any given time during the year is included in these counts. These tables do not take into consideration such factors as number of quarters worked, experience in an industry, or occupation. In these tables, the term nonresidents refers to individuals for whom demographic data are not available. These are typically individuals who commute to Wyoming from another state for temporary work, or individuals who have not yet established residency.
In 2020 and 2021, Wyoming endured its third economic downturn since 2009. R&P has defined economic downturn as a period of at least two consecutive quarters of over-the-year decrease in average monthly employment and total wages based on data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The prior economic downturns occurred from first quarter 2009 (2009Q1) to first quarter 2010 (2010Q1) and from second quarter 2015 (2015Q2) to fourth quarter 2016 (2016Q4). All three downturns were preceded by declining energy prices, which resulted in substantial job losses in Wyoming's mining (including oil & gas) sector.
This article examines changes in the demographics of Wyoming's labor market over the last 20 years. In particular, data from 2019 and 2021 were used to compare current demographics with pre-pandemic levels.
Table 1 shows the number of persons working in Wyoming at any time during the year by gender and age in 2019 and 2021. Overall, the total number of persons working decreased from 354,815 to 336,824 (-17,991, or -5.1%). The number of resident female workers decreased by 6,958 (-4.8%) while the number of resident male workers decreased by 15,028 (-8.8%). The number of nonresident workers increased from 40,522 to 44,517 (3,995, or 9.9%).
As illustrated in Figure 1, the decrease in the number of men working in Wyoming has been much greater than the decrease in the number of women. Prior research from R&P has illustrated that male workers are more likely to lose their jobs during periods of economic downturn than women (Harris, 2013, and Moore, 2017). This is due in part to the large number of men working in industries such as mining and construction; as previously mentioned, each of Wyoming's three recent downturns was preceded by declining energy prices that resulted in substantial job losses in the mining sector and the industries that support it.
While Wyoming has seen a decline in the number of resident male and female workers over the last few years, the number of nonresidents working in Wyoming steadily increased since the downturn of 2015Q2-2016Q4. The substantial increase in nonresidents working in Wyoming may be an indication that Wyoming employers had to search outside of the state for workers because of the decrease in resident workers the last several years.
The number of persons working in Wyoming decreased for most age groups from 2019 to 2021, with the greatest losses seen in those ages 25-34 (-7,426, or -10.8%) and 55 and older (-5,830, or -8.1%). Aside from the increase in nonresidents, the only other increase was seen in females younger than 20, from 10,750 to 10,926 (176, or 1.6%). The increase in young female workers was primarily seen in the retail trade and leisure & hospitality sectors. The number of males younger than 20 working in Wyoming decreased from 11,194 to 10,798 (-396, or -3.5%).
Figure 2 illustrates changes in persons working in Wyoming from 2011 to 2021 by age group. Noticeable downward trends can be seen in the 45-54 and 35-44 age groups over the last decade.
The number of youth (ages 15-19) working in Wyoming remained relatively flat over the last 10 years. As shown in Figure 3, the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and Wyoming's associated economic downturn of 2009Q1 to 2010Q1 substantially altered youth participation in the labor market. From 2000 to 2008, an average of 28,155 youth worked in Wyoming each year. Following the economic downturn of 2009Q1-2010Q1, the average number of youth working in Wyoming dropped to 21,010 per year from 2009 to 2021.
The decline in young workers is not unique to Wyoming. Morisi (2017) noted that approximately half (52.0%) of the nation’s teen population participated in the labor force in 2000. Since 2009, approximately one-third of the national teen population has participated in the labor force each year.
There are several possible reasons for the increase in nonresident workers in Wyoming. In 2018 and 2019, Wyoming's job growth was largely driven by temporary and short-term jobs associated with pipeline construction projects (Moore, 2020), and many of those jobs likely were filled by out-of-state workers. Similarly, the increase in Wyoming's average monthly employment from 2020 to 2021 was led by job growth in leisure & hospitality, an industry which relies heavily on short-term non-resident workers. For example, nonresidents accounted for approximately one in four (26.9%) individuals working in leisure & hospitality in 2021 (Research & Planning, 2022).
Demographic changes and employment trends in Wyoming's labor market also could affect the increase in nonresidents working in Wyoming. Prior research from R&P discussed the exodus of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) from Wyoming and its labor market (Moore, 2021). Wyoming saw a steady decline in millennials working during each year from 2015 to 2020, and the number working in Wyoming at any time during the year decreased from a peak of 121,654 in 2014 to 102,150 in 2020 (-19,504, or -16.0%). This research noted that the "decline in millennials working (-16.0%) was substantially greater than the decline in the state's overall millennial population (-6.0%)."
Young workers also are more likely to hold non-traditional gig or freelance jobs (Anderson, et al., 2021). If younger individuals are living in Wyoming but working for an employer based in another state, they may be unavailable to work for Wyoming employers.
In addition, the departure of older workers from Wyoming's labor market also could have expedited the need for nonresident workers. During each year from 2015 to 2020, approximately one in five persons working in Wyoming was age 55 or older (Moore, 2022). A study by the Pew Research Center noted rapid acceleration in baby boomer retirements in 2020 nationally (Fry, 2020). In 2020Q3, about 28.65 million baby boomers reportedly had left the labor force due to retirement, approximately 3.2 million more than in 2019Q3.
With older workers retiring and a share of millennials leaving the state to find work or freelancing for out-of-state employers, it is entirely possible that Wyoming employers have had to turn to out-of-state workers to fill jobs.
In recent years, Wyoming's labor force has been shaped by changes in demographics, employment trends, economic conditions, a global pandemic, and more. Future research from R&P will continue to look at changes and possible opportunities in the demographics of Wyoming's labor market.
The complete demographics tables discussed in this article are available online at https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/demographics.htm. The demographics page also includes links to several previous research articles on the demographics of Wyoming’s workforce.
Anderson, M., et al. (2021, December 8). The state of gig work in 2021. Pew Research Center. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/12/08/the-state-of-gig-work-in-2021/
Fry, R. (2020, November 9). The pace of Boomer retirements has accelerated in the past year. Pew Research Center. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/09/the-pace-of-boomer-retirements-has-accelerated-in-the-past-year/
Harris, P. (2013, May). Demographics of UI claimants: More males continue to receive benefits than females. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 50(5). Research & Planning, Wyoming DWS. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0513/a2.htm
Moore, M. (2017, August). Wage records in Wyoming, 2000-2016: Males, younger workers were the most affected by the recent economic downturn. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 54(8). Research & Planning, Wyoming DWS. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0817/0817.pdf
Moore, M. (2020, July). 2020Q1 quarterly update: Wyoming job growth slows prior to COVID-19 pandemic. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 57(7). Research & Planning, Wyoming DWS. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0720/0720.pdf
Moore, M. (2021, September). Millennials continue to leave Wyoming and its labor market. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 58(9). Research & Planning, Wyoming DWS. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/0921/0921.pdf#page=8
Moore, M. (2022, February). Older workers in Wyoming: A closer look. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 59(4). Research & Planning, Wyoming DWS. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/trends/2022_02.pdf
Morisi, T. (2017, February). Teen labor force participation before and after the Great Recession and beyond. Monthly Labor Review, February 2017. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://tinyurl.com/yt4uv2vz
Research & Planning. (2022, May 16). Selected demographics of the Wyoming workforce, 2021: Leisure & hospitality (NAICS 71-72). Wyoming DWS. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/earnings_tables/2022/Industry/71_Leisure.pdf
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