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
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
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.”