© Copyright 1999 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Industry Variations in Wyoming's Steady Workers
by: Gregg Detweiler, Senior Economist

" ... there is a significant pattern in the annual wages for individuals who retained steady work, showing a 19.3 percent increase in wages over the six-year period [from 1992 to 1997] ... "

For the past two months, the Research & Planning Section has utilized Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records to characterize Wyoming’s labor market transactions. Approximately 18 percent of UI covered employees separated(1) from the Wyoming labor market each year from 1992 to 1997. Another 40 percent of the labor market remained job attached to Wyoming employers but were categorized either as a multiple job holder, job changer or steady worker/different employer(2). This article focuses on those individuals who worked for the same employer between 1992 and 1997 (steady workers) and also compares demographic and wage data by industry.

How is the information in this article useful? It can help answer such questions as: what is the likelihood that an individual who is starting a new career can find gainful employment as a steady employee? Data obtained in this analysis indicate that, for example, a person has a 5.9 percent chance of finding steady work in the Construction industry compared to a 22.4 percent chance in the Mining industry.

To identify steady workers, the analyst combined UI wage records from 1992 to 1997 and matched social security numbers (SSN's) and the employers' UI numbers. Two criteria were used to filter the database. Individuals had to work for the same employer during or before 1992, and they had to continue working for this employer for six years without an exit. Out of the total number of UI wage record SSN's from 1992-97 (531,106), the matching criteria found 44,265 (8.3%) who held steady employment with the same employer during the six year period. The database was then matched to the Wyoming driver's license and Employment Services databases to obtain demographic data. There were 2,434 (5.5%) unmatched SSN’s without demographic data. These are labeled "unknown" for this analysis (see Table 1).

In October 1995, steady workers with the same employer from 1992 to 1994 were analyzed(3). The study, which covered a three-year period, showed 67,829 individuals maintaining steady work for the same employer compared to the 44,265 from 1992-97, a difference of 23,564 workers. Holding the variables constant, the effect of a continuous decline in the percentage of steady workers, largely members of the baby boom generation, may lead to a labor shortage within ten years when these workers reach retirement age.

In March 1998, 45.2 percent of the 1996 labor force were found to be steady workers with the same employer during a one-year period(4). Research & Planning has compiled a reliable demographic master file during the last three years. Therefore, the following analysis will examine the steady worker in Wyoming’s labor market grouped by sex, age and major industry.

Table 1 illustrates the distribution of steady workers by major industry and gender. There were 22,551 (50.9%) males and 19,280 (43.6%) females. Both had an average age of 41. These percentages are similar to those of Wyoming’s total labor force found in a study on the relation of age and gender to employment(5) in Wyoming Labor Force Trends, May 1996. The average age was calculated for the reference year of 1992. Like the gender distribution, the industry breakout followed the May 1996 findings as well. Females were highly represented in Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE), Services and Local Government. The only exception was Retail Trade where the number of females was below the May 1996 findings.

Table 2 compares steady workers to the total 1997 Wyoming labor market. The labor market is defined as all employees who worked in UI covered employment whose unique SSN's were found in UI wage records. This table shows that almost 16 percent of Wyoming’s labor market was comprised of steady workers during 1997. Table 3 compares the annual wage of the steady workers by industry to the total statewide covered wage for the reference years of 1993, 1995 and 1997. The covered wage is the total ES-202 (UI) covered wage for all industries including all jobs. Even though 1992 was the beginning of the reference period, 1993 was used to produce a more accurate annual wage. The criterion for the sample was that an individual had to start work in or before 1992. Therefore, certain individuals were not employed for the entire 1992 calendar year. The following major industry discussions will illustrate a more detailed analysis and all references to employment or wages are found in Tables 2 and 3.


The Agriculture industry in Wyoming contains the greatest percentage of employees that are not covered by Unemployment Insurance (UI). A majority of farms and ranches in the state are small; their workers are comprised of only family members and temporary help, thus not subject to UI laws. Therefore, the number of steady workers is difficult to determine. The Agriculture industry has 394 steady workers, which accounts for only 7.7 percent of the covered labor market with the majority found in agricultural production-livestock and animal specialties. Some of the reasons for this small percentage are due to high seasonality and low wages. The Agriculture industry is one of only two industries whose annual wage fell below the statewide UI covered wage of $21,745.00 in 1993. However, in 1995 and 1997 the annual wages were above the statewide average, growing at rates of 8.7 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.


The Mining industry has been a major contributor to Wyoming’s economy for many years. This contribution includes occupations that warrant specialized skills (e.g., earth drillers, blasters & explosives workers and dragline operators) and pay high wages to many individuals. There were 4,527 steady workers or 22.4 percent of the labor market employed in 1997. The Mining industry has the third highest number of steady workers, evenly distributed among the coal, oil & gas extraction and non-metallic minerals industries, and ranks at the top in annual wages. In 1993, steady workers averaged $44,947.56 in annual wages, double the statewide covered wage. The Mining industry was one of two industries that maintained an even growth in annual wages during the six-year period at just over 11.0 percent.


Wyoming’s Construction industry is highly seasonal and is based on short-term special projects, thus producing high job turnover and a low rate of steady workers. Factors influencing this project-based environment are interest rates, housing starts/building permits, federal monies (e.g., highway funds) and new business or population segments. All these factors make it difficult to maintain steady work with the same employer. Table 2 shows that there were only 1,554 (5.9%) individuals who worked for the same employer in the Construction industry from 1992-97. Out of the 1,554 steady workers, over half (52%) were found in special trades construction. The Construction industry annual wage of $29,852.36 ranked sixth in 1993. Construction saw a 16.7 percent increase in wages from 1993-95 compared to the statewide covered wage increase of 2.8 percent. This was the largest increase of any industry. The 1995-97 increase was more modest at 8.0 percent, but it still remained above the statewide increase of 6.8 percent.


Manufacturing is only a small part of Wyoming’s economy. The industry averaged 12,922 covered employees or 4.5 percent of the jobs in 1997. However, it ranked fourth in the number of steady workers as a percentage of the labor force. The high number of steady workers is attributable to high wages and the specialized skills required by the majority of the industry’s occupations (e.g., machinists, maintenance repairers and petroleum refinery operators). Of the 2,812 steady workers, the industries that accounted for the majority are printing & publishing (389), chemicals (387) and petroleum refining (441). These employees earned an average of $32,313.93 annually in 1993 with an average increase of 8.9 percent over the next four years. Chemical manufacturing had the highest annual wage ($46,752.57) while apparel and other products retained the lowest annual wage ($12,261.86).

Transportation, Communications, & Public Utilities (TCPU)

Wyoming’s TCPU industry contains nine different industry groups that accounted for 14,225 jobs in 1997. These groups are influenced by different external factors. Transportation consists of local and urban transit, motor freight transportation, water & air transportation and pipelines, except natural gas, which all have unique seasonal employment patterns. On the other hand, Communications & Public Utilities are affected by increases or decreases in the state’s population. There were 2,500 steady workers in 1997, of which two-thirds were found in the motor freight transportation (857) and electrical services (834) industries. TCPU had the second highest annual wage throughout the reference period, starting at $35,269.26 in 1993 and ending at $41,905.04 in 1997.

Wholesale Trade

The Wholesale Trade industry, categorized into durable goods and nondurable goods, has a covered labor market of 10,026. Durable goods account for 56 percent (5,594) of the covered employment and 62 percent (1,023) of the steady workers. The remaining 44 percent (4,432) of covered employment and 38 percent of steady workers are found in nondurable goods. Out of the 1,023 steady workers in durable goods, 63 percent (649) were located in machinery, equipment and supplies. These are establishments primarily engaged in the wholesale distribution of construction & mining (except petroleum), farm & garden and industrial machinery and equipment. The majority of the 622 steady workers in nondurable goods were found in groceries and related products. In 1993, the Wholesale Trade industry had the fourth highest annual wage ($31,909.37); however, it had the third highest in 1997 ($39,853.48).

Retail Trade

The Retail Trade industry supports the largest covered employment of all the major divisions. Of its 69,482 covered employees, there were 4,336 (6.2%) individuals who remained attached to the same employer for the six-year period. The major factors affecting steady work are high seasonality and a high proportion of lower paid and part-time employees. Motor vehicle dealers had 1,114 steady workers with an annual wage of $27,146.60, the highest of all nine major industry groups within Retail Trade. Eating & drinking establishments had an annual wage of $13,701.99, the lowest, but recorded the second highest level of steady workers with a total of 696. Retail Trade, like Agriculture, had an annual wage that fell below the statewide covered wage of $21,745 in 1993. However, in 1995 and 1997 the industry posted a higher percentage increase in annual wages compared to the statewide UI covered wage.

Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE)

The FIRE industry accounted for 9,142 jobs in 1997. While this is slightly more than three percent of UI covered employment, these industries play an important role in Wyoming’s economy. The sample produced 1,773 steady workers for the reference period, which account for 19.4 percent of covered employment. The FIRE industry also recorded the lowest number of job separations1 in 1995. The reasons for this type of environment are competitive wages and the additional training and skills that are required for licensing, such as for insurance representatives and real estate and stock brokers. The wages for the industry rank in the middle at a level of $30,884.68. From 1995 to 1997, the FIRE industry recorded a 13.9 percent increase in annual wages, which was the highest of all the industries. Annual wages for steady workers range from $19,002.20 (Real Estate) to $82,889.16 (security and commodity brokers, dealers exchanges & services).


The Services industry supports the second largest covered employment of all the major divisions. Out of the 62,905 covered employees, there were 5,528 (8.8%) individuals who remained attached to the same employer. The factors dictating such a small number of steady workers are numerous. The sixteen industries within Services have different seasonal fluctuations in employment and some of the industries are composed of a high proportion of lower paid and part-time employees. Health services (2,001), social services (689) and engineering, accounting & management (577) are the top industries in the number of steady workers. The industry wage of $28,603.68 in 1993 and $33,961.58 in 1997 ranked seventh among all industries. Twelve out of the sixteen major industry groups in Services had an annual wage less than $23,600.00. The highest annual wages were found in legal services ($40,171.36), health services ($37,147.95) and engineering, accounting & management ($38,608.93).


The Government sector employed the majority of the steady workers in the sample. Some of the reasons why individuals remain job attached in Government are competitive benefits, set work schedules and in some cases, nontransferable job skills. Local Government reported 13,248 (32.1%) steady workers with the majority found in local education (9,790) and executive/legislative (3,006). The executive/legislative group contains all the city and town clerks, manager offices, county commissions and accounting offices. State Government reported 5,948 (45.2%) steady workers with the majority employed in administration of human resource programs. The wages for State and Local Government ranked near the bottom for all industries, eighth and ninth respectively. Following the annual wages in Table 3 throughout the study period, both State and Local Government showed a significant increase in wages between 1993-95. However, between 1995-97 these industries were the only two whose annual wage percent growth fell below the statewide UI covered percentage of 6.8.

The overall findings of this analysis confirm that there is a significant pattern in the annual wages for individuals who retained steady work, showing a 19.3 percent increase in wages over the six-year period. Second, certain industries (Agriculture, Construction, Retail Trade and Services) have lower percentages of steady workers because of high seasonality and part-time employment. Third, those industries with a high percentage of steady workers have low seasonality and higher wages. Earlier research compiled by Research & Planning stated that changing jobs pays off(6). This holds true for individuals who are at the beginning of their career. However, the analysis here shows significant increases in wages for individuals (average age of 41) who have a continuous tenure with the same employer.

1 G. Lee Saathoff, "Separation from the Wyoming Labor Market," Wyoming Labor Force Trends, March 1999, pp. 1-5.

2 Krista R. Shinkle, "Wyoming-Attached Workers: Living and Working in Wyoming," Trends, April 1999, pp. 1-6.

3 Gayle C. Edlin, "Steady Work Pays Off: Wyoming Unemployment Insurance Wage Records Revisited," Trends, October 1995, pp. 1-6.

4 Brett Judd, "The Wyoming Wage Record Classification System," Trends, March 1998, pp. 1-3.

5 Brett Judd and Gregg Detweiler, "The Relation of Age and Gender to Employment in Wyoming: A New Analysis Utilizing Wage Records," Trends, May 1996, pp. 1-4.

6 Gayle C. Edlin, "Changing Jobs Pays Off," Trends, October 1996, pp. 1-6.

Watch for the final two installments of this five-part article series analyzing labor force attachment coming in the June and July issues of Wyoming Labor Force Trends!

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