Wyoming’s Unemployment Close to Pre-Pandemic Levels as Inflation Increases
Based on the February data from the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division, Wyoming continues to see a decrease in unemployment, along with an increase in oil and natural gas prices.
According to data from the Analysis Division, oil prices rose above $90 a barrel, natural gas prices were at an average of $4.59 per million British thermal units in February, while oil and gas rigs in Wyoming increased from six and one in February 2021 to 14 and three in February 2022 respectively.
Oil and gas employment in the state numbered 7,900 jobs in January 2022, compared to the pre-pandemic numbers of 12,000 in April 2020.
Unemployment as a whole saw a decrease, going from 6.4% and 5.1% in January 2021 to 4% and 3.8% in the U.S. and Wyoming respectively, while the number of jobs in Wyoming also increased, going from 273,700 in January 2021 to 283,000 in January 2022.
The cost of living index in Wyoming however has increased dramatically, going from 2% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 7.7% in the second quarter of 2021.
Dylan Bainer, the principal economist for the Economic Analysis Division, said it's good to see a decline in unemployment along with an increase in jobs, but the rise in inflation is also a concern.
"It's steadily declined from when the peak of the pandemic hit to...3.8 in January," Bainer said. "That's around the normal, natural weight where you can be. It's just kind of an interesting, don't know what you call it, dilemma, dilemmas not the right word for it, but the fact that jobs are slowly coming back with the unemployment rate down signifies a smaller labor market generally...So it's really good to monitor both those numbers alongside each other because unemployment by itself doesn't tell the whole story...The cost of living is for sure skyrocketing in Wyoming and also nationwide as inflation is the big talk right now."
In terms of sales and use tax collections, the mining sector increased by almost $1.6 million year-over-year, just behind the financial activities sector at $1.8 million, which saw an increase due to a refund of $955,863 in February 2021 in Carbon County.
Total statewide collections were up $6.8 million compared to February 2021, with Natrona County seeing the second-biggest increase of $1.83 million, just behind Campbell County at $1.84 million, while Niobrara County had the biggest percentage decrease of 67%, mostly from the transportation and warehousing sector.