Wyo. unemployment down, still above national average


Wyoming’s month-to-month unemployment rate saw a decrease of 0.3 percent, bringing the state’s unemployment rate to 5.1 percent for the month of October. That is only 0.2 points higher than the U.S. average of 4.9 percent.

According to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Wyoming was one of seven states in the country that saw a statistically significant decrease in unemployment rates. Despite the spot of bright news for the state, when counting over-the-year, unemployment in Wyoming is up, from 4.3 percent to 5.1.

Wyoming’s decrease in unemployment for the month was tied for the greatest percentage along with Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Nevada. Utah saw a decrease of 0.2 percent, and Iowa’s went down. 0.1 percent.

Nebraska and Virginia saw increases in unemployment, with Nebraska’s rate increasing 0.1 percent, and Virginia’s 0.2 percent.

Nationwide, the average unemployment rate stayed the same from month-to-month at 4.9 percent, even though the number of employed workers in the nation is up over the year. According to an analysis by BLS, this is likely due to more people entering the workforce as the job situation improves.

According to BLS figures, Wyoming’s month-to-month employment numbers are essentially unchanged. On a year-to-year basis, Wyoming had about 10,200 fewer jobs in October 2016 than it did in October 2015.

The biggest decreases in the state came from the logging and mining industry, which includes coal and oil extraction. The sector accounted for 4,400 of the state’s 10,200 job losses, according to figures released by the Economic Analysis Division (EAD) of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information.

Wyoming job losses began to pile up in when the price of crude oil dropped on worldwide markets, making oil extracted in Wyoming too expensive to be competitive.

Goods producing suffered the second highest loss in jobs, with 11.6 percent fewer than this time last year. Construction was also down 9.2 percent, according to the figures released by the EAD.

Manufacturing, professional and business services, education and health and “other services” were the only four of 14 industry categories to see increases in the number of jobs in the state, with “other services” leading the way with a 3 percent increase, followed by professional and business services, which were up 2.2 percent.

According to Bloomberg, crude oil continues to trade below $50 per barrel as of Nov. 21, still far below the price where most Wyoming oil extraction becomes economically viable.

According to the Casper Business Cycle Index report released last week by the EAD, Casper, which is heavily dependent on energy sector jobs, saw a decrease of 21.9 percent in the number of mining and mineral extraction jobs.

The region saw decreases in all four areas that comprise the index; unemployment rate, wages, taxes and median home prices. The Casper region’s jobless rate increased 5.3 percent between September 2015 and September 2016.

By contrast, employment in Cheyenne, which is less dependent on oil and mining, was down 2.5 percent. In Cheyenne, home prices were up. In the Cheyenne region, the biggest job losses occurred in the information sector, which saw a decrease of 8.8 percent in year-over-year measurement between September 2015 and September 2016.

Despite a Monday announcement by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce crude oil production, the cost of a barrel of oil remained below $49 in Monday trading.

The short-term implications of OPEC’s move will likely not immediately benefit Wyoming’s oil extraction business. Analysts at Goldman Sachs in New York predicted that the current surplus of crude oil and refined fuels could revert to a deficit by the middle of next year, however, which could cause more drastic increases in oil prices medium term.


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