The Saratoga Sun -

Oil, gas upticks give Wyoming a boost

Wholesale price increases aid state economy


After the first four months of Wyoming’s fiscal year 2017 elapsed, figures published by the state show some uptick in economic activity in the state thanks in part to a pickup in the oil and gas sectors. Other sectors of the economy have not fared as well, however.

Oil prices surged in November, increasing from $51.56 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to an average price of $56.57 per barrel, an almost 10 percent increase over the month. In November 2016, the price for a barrel of WTI was at $45.66.

Natural gas prices also were on the upswing, and business in that sector is also helping drive the state’s economy higher. The November 2017 price for natural gas averaged $2.78 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) to date, compared to the $2.59 per MMBtu average in October 2017. By comparison, the November 2016 average price was $2.30 per MMBtu.

The increases in prices for both resources seem to be a boon for Wyoming, with oil and gas extraction increasing. For November 2017, the average oil and gas rig count in the state was 23, up from 16 in November 2016, according to figures published by Baker-Hughes, a Texas-based oilfield service company.

Applications for permits to drill for oil hit 7,565 by the end of October, compared to 5,682 for the same period in 2016.

The increase in rigs has translated into an increase in oil and gas jobs in the state. The number of payroll positions in the oil and gas sector was up 15 percent from the same month a year earlier, rising to 11,700 from 10,200, according to figure provided by the Economic Analysis Division of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information (EAD).

Overall, the state’s unemployment rate for October 2017 was at 4.2 percent, a slight uptick from September’s figure of 4.0 percent. The national average is 4.1 percent. Wyoming’s per-capita income of $55,116 exceeds the average of the Rocky Mountain Region of $46,749 and the U.S. average of $49,246.

Statewide, the mining industry—which includes oil and gas extraction—added the most jobs in the state of the 14 business sectors tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS’ figures, there were 2,200 more mining jobs in the state than a year ago. Construction and manufacturing each added 300 jobs to state payrolls.

Outside mining, manufacturing and construction, the employment picture looked somewhat bleak, however.

Every other business sector across the state saw declines in employment, according to the BLS. In terms of the number of jobs lost, state and local governments shed 1,400 jobs compared to a year ago. Leisure and hospitality, Wyoming’s second biggest economic component, had 1,110 fewer employees than a year ago.

Overall, the numbers of jobs in Wyoming was down between October 2016 and October 2017, clocking an overall decrease of 1,400 jobs in that time period.

Tepid job numbers notwithstanding, the state’s collection of sales and use taxes in the first four months of FY2017 eclipsed the figures for the same period in FY2016. After the first four months of FY2017, sales and use tax collections are up in most places in the state. Overall, collections were up $33.4 million in the first four months of FY2017 compared to the same period in FY2016.

Of Wyoming’s 22 counties, there were increases in sales and use tax collection in all but six; Carbon, Crook, Goshen, Lincoln Washakie and Weston. Carbon County had the largest decrease of 2 percent, or about $400,000. The biggest increases were in Campbell, Laramie and Teton counties. Campbell and Larmie had increases of 13 percent, Tourism-intensive Teton County had an increase of 12 percent.

In terms of dollars, Sublette County led the state in collections, being responsible for $5.6 million of sales and use tax collections.

Housing permits, another indicator of economic activity in the state also showed languid growth. Across the state, the number of single family residential permits was pretty much unchanged, with 1,295 applications so far in FY2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Construction permits for multifamily dwellings increased substantially from 158 for the period in FY2016 to 251 thus far in 2017.

Overall, residential building permits were up slightly from 1,461 in 106 to 1,546 in FY2017.

Despite the lukewarm recovery, there is good news for Wyoming residents; the state’s Consumer Price Index or CPI, which measures increases in the cost of living based on a basket of household goods, increased 1.1 percent when compared to the previous year,

That is well below the nationwide CPI increase of 1.6 percent, meaning Wyoming consumers get to stretch their dollars a little further.


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