Report shows sales up in Wyoming, though revenue concerns persist


A quarterly economic report

released this week shows Wyoming saw

an increase in overall sales this year, while

Laramie County continued to see stable

growth in its economy.

Yet the report also provided an indication

of the struggles Wyoming will face as its revenue

from mineral taxes dwindles.

The report, published by the state’s Economic

Analysis Division, indicates the state

has continued to rebound from the economic

downturn of 2015 and 2016, Wyoming Chief

Economist Wenlin Liu said.

“During the downturn, the state lost almost

20,000 jobs,” Liu said. “In the mining

sector, we lost almost 9,000 jobs, but since

early 2017, driven by petroleum exploration,

we’ve been slowly rebounding, and that rebound

continues in third quarter 2019.”

Since the third quarter of 2018, taxable

sales have increased 8.5 percent statewide.

Over the same span, sales in the construction

industry jumped 44 percent, which Liu

mainly attributed to increased oil exploration

in eastern Wyoming.

“Any time you have oil production increase,

they need lots of pipelines to transfer

it out,” Liu said. “That’s why this construction

is mostly driven by oil and gas pipeline

construction, and we also have some of this

wind power construction, like in Carbon

County.”

In Laramie County, taxable sales increased

5.3 percent since the third quarter

of 2018. Liu said the county has much less

fluctuation than other counties that are more

dependent on mineral production.

“Laramie County has actually, for the past

many years, seen steady growth in terms of

employment or even population,” Liu said.

Yet other elements of the report offer details

that help explain why the state is facing

an anticipated $185.4 million drop in revenue

over the next three years. Wyoming’s mineral

severance tax revenue in the third quarter

of 2019 was about 15 percent lower than it

was in the same quarter last year.

Liu attributed the drop in tax revenue to

prices for natural gas and oil declining over

the past year, while natural gas and coal production

also declined by about 10 percent.

The main positive from the report was an

increase in oil production, Liu said.

“However, the oil production increase is

not enough to offset other declines,” Liu said.

“That’s why, for overall mineral revenue, it’s

about 15 percent lower than the same time

last year.”

Meanwhile, Wyoming’s unemployment

rate increased slightly – from 3.5 percent last

quarter to 3.7 percent this quarter. Liu said

the drop is largely due to Blackjewel shutting

down two of its Wyoming coal mines in

July, as the report shows the state’s mining

industry lost 670 jobs, or a 3.2 percent drop

from the previous year.

“Still, our unemployment rate ... is very

low,” Liu added.

Liu noted the low unemployment rate is

also a result of Wyoming’s aging population.

An AARP report from last year found that

by 2055, Wyoming’s population 85 years old

and older is expected to grow by 227 percent.

“We just do not have enough labor to replace

these retired people, so that’s why our

relatively low unemployment rate will continue,”

Liu said. “Many businesses are looking

for workers pretty hard.”

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