Casper Saw Biggest Population Decrease in Past Year
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a majority of larger cities and towns in Wyoming increased their population between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, according to a press release by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information.
For cities and towns with populations of over 2,000, the city of Afton had the fastest annual growth rate at 2.3%, followed by Buffalo at 2.2%, and Lovell at 2%.
Several cities in the state lost population, including the most populous city, Cheyenne, losing 110 residents, while Casper lost the most at 586, and Rock Springs and Green River lost 285 and 177 people respectively.
As of July 1, 2021, 65.6% of Wyoming's population, or 398,373 people, lived in incorporated places such as cities or towns, with almost half of the state’s residents living in 11 cities and towns with populations of more than 10,000.
Wyoming’s total population grew by 1,536 or 0.3% from 2020 to 2021, but, the population of the state’s 99 cities and towns decreased slightly during the same period.
Dr. Wenlin Liu, Chief Economist with the State of Wyoming's Economic Analysis Division, said in the press release:
"The COVID-19 virus hit energy-producing and serving areas especially hard because energy demand plummeted, and the rebound of the industry was painfully slow in early 2021," Liu said. "On the other hand, people chose to relocate to less populated and lower-cost areas during the pandemic since work-from-home policies made it possible to live and work anywhere."
Liu said that while populations in Wyoming moved more to smaller cities, the state's population is lower than in 2015, despite increases in 2020 and 2021 due to more people immigrating to the state from around the country.
"Wyoming had a big economic downturn in 2015...so from 2015 to 2019, they had almost six years of consecutive net out-migration, more people moving out than moving in, and then 2020 and 2021 reversed the trend, we had net migration in these past two years," Lui said. "The cost of COVID is of course a big factor...we are still lower than 2015 for total population."
While he can't say for sure, Lui believes that a place like California, due to it's high population, is probably where many of the migrants come from, along with people coming in from bordering states.
Lui said that Wyoming also has an aging population that ages faster than the population increase for younger people, with the number of people over 65 increasing by around 3% each year compared to younger people in the state increasing between 0.2% and 0.3% each year.
"Wyoming's population is aging very fast, particularly during the after 2015, as many young people move out," Lui said. "Any time we have net out-migration, more people moving out than moving in, relatively more young people will be moving out because traditionally, Wyoming migration is being treated by employment, any time your employment goes down and you have people moving out...On the other hand, Wyoming has a larger proportion of baby boomers, that's why things still estimate Wyoming aging in 2019 was the fastest in country...it's almost a 3% increase for 65 and older people versus total population only a 0.3% increase."