Copyright 2004 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 41 No. 5    



Wyoming Labor Market in 2003
by: David Bullard, Senior Economist

Wyoming's annual average unemployment rate increased from 4.2 percent in 2002 to 4.4 percent in 2003 (not a statistically significant increase) and labor force (the sum of all employed and unemployed individuals) grew at a healthy pace, increasing by 8,425 individuals or 3.0 percent. Statewide nonagricultural job growth, which started the year at 0.4 percent, increased to 2.0 percent by year-end (the annual average was 0.8%) signaling growth in Wyoming's economy. Wyoming's metropolitan areas (Natrona County and Laramie County) experienced faster nonagricultural employment growth than the state as a whole. While nonagricultural employment growth was very slow during the early part of 2003, by the end of the year it had reached a healthy level of 2.0 percent.

Current Employment Statistics

Wyoming total nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased from an annual average of 247,900 jobs in 2002 to 250,000 jobs in 2003 (see Tables 1 & 2). This represents an increase of 2,100 jobs or 0.8 percent. However, when comparing individual months in 2002 and 2003 a different picture emerges. Over-the-year employment growth stood at 0.4 percent in January 2003, decreased to -0.1 percent in March, then increased steadily to 2.0 percent in December 2003. In other words, by the end of 2003, we were seeing a rebound in employment growth from the brief slowdown that occurred in the second half of 2002 and the first half of 2003. One of the largest contributors to this recovery was Natural Resources & Mining. By December 2003, it had gained 1,700 jobs (or 9.8%) from its December 2002 employment level. Construction, which was losing jobs in January 2003 (-1,000 jobs or -5.7%), experienced a turnaround and was gaining jobs in December (900 jobs or 4.9%). Higher energy prices and increased oil & gas drilling activity may be partially responsible for the improving state of Wyoming's economy.

On an annual average basis, job growth was seen across many industries. Some of the largest increases occurred in Natural Resources & Mining (400 jobs or 2.2%), Transportation, Utilities & Warehousing (400 jobs or 3.4%), Educational & Health Services (900 jobs or 4.3%), and Government (800 jobs or 1.3%).

Only a few sectors suffered job losses (on an annual average basis) in 2003, including Construction (down 400 jobs), Manufacturing (down 200 jobs), Retail Trade (down 300 jobs), and Professional & Business Services (down 100 jobs). However, even within these broad sectors, some industries grew. For example, within Construction, heavy & civil engineering construction added 200 jobs. Within Retail Trade, general merchandise stores grew by 100 jobs. Within Professional & Business Services, administrative & support & waste services added 100 jobs.

During 2003, Natrona County added 600 jobs (see Tables 3 & 4) giving it a growth rate of 1.8 percent. Natural Resources & Mining grew by 14.3 percent or 300 jobs, suggesting that Natrona County is benefiting from higher energy prices and increased drilling activity. Other growth industries included Construction (100 jobs or 4.5%), Professional & Business Services (100 jobs or 3.4%), Educational & Health Services (100 jobs or 2.4%), and Leisure & Hospitality (100 jobs or 3.2%). Job losses were seen in Wholesale Trade (-100 jobs or -4.5%) and Information (-100 jobs or -16.7%). 

Laramie County added 900 jobs or 2.3 percent during 2003 (see Tables 5 & 6). Educational & Health Services and Trade, Transportation, & Utilities each added 300 jobs. Modest job gains were reported in Information (100 jobs or 9.1%), Financial Activities (100 jobs or 5.0%), and Government (200 jobs or 1.6%). Professional & Business Services was the only industry in Laramie County that showed decreasing employment in 2003 (-200 jobs or -6.1%) indicating that job gains were widespread across most industry sectors.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Table 7 shows that after decreasing slightly in 2002, labor force grew at a healthy pace in 2003 (an increase of 8,425 individuals or 3.0%). Part of this growth was due to an increase in the number of unemployed individuals. A growing labor force is good news for economic developers seeking to attract new firms to the state and employers needing to hire workers as their businesses grow.

The statewide unemployment rate continued to increase, from 3.9 percent in 2001, to 4.2 percent in 2002 and 4.4 percent in 2003. However, this is not unusual as the U.S. unemployment rate increased even further, growing from 4.7 percent in 2001, to 5.8 percent in 2002, and 6.0 percent in 2003. The unemployment rate also increased in 15 of Wyoming's 23 counties. The unemployment rate decreased in Albany, Big Horn, Hot Springs, Lincoln, Niobrara, Park, Sweetwater, and Washakie counties.

Labor force increased in all but four Wyoming counties (Hot Springs, Platte, Uinta, and Weston) suggesting that economic growth is occurring throughout most areas of the state. Counties where labor force grew at the fastest pace included Lincoln, Sublette, Converse, and Sweetwater.

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