A working trend

Wyoming’s unemployment rates continued to decrease in December with Albany County tying Niobrara for lowest in the state, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported.

“At the statewide level, we continue to see modest improvement in unemployment rate,” Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research and Planning Section Senior Economist David Bullard said.

Unemployment rates dipped from 4.9 percent in November to 4.8 percent in December, which Bullard said is not a statistically significant amount, but the reduction did continue a trend of decreasing rates that started about five months ago.

“In August, our statewide unemployment rate was 5.5 percent,” Bullard said. “It’s steadily decreased since then.”

A recent increase in oil prices could be a contributing factor in Wyoming’s steady unemployment rate reduction, he said.

“The (oil) rig count increased,” Bullard said. “In June, there were seven rigs in the state, which is very low. By December, that had increased to 19.”

During the last several years, he said the state averaged about 50 oil rigs.

“We did have some years where we had over 100, but there were also years where we had much less,” Bullard said. “The oil and gas industry is very important to Wyoming, so I think it affects several other industries as well.”

Because oil prices are unpredictable, Bullard said it was too early to determine whether the decrease in employment rates would continue through January.

“It’s not a trend we see every year,” Bullard said. “It does indicate some improvement in the labor market.”

Although employment of Wyoming residents, which is adjusted to account for seasonal jobs, increased from November-December by about 1,100 individuals, employment was lower than in 2015 by about 2,200 residents.

Despite the rollercoaster of statewide unemployment rates during the last year, Albany County’s rates remained steady. From 2.9 percent unemployment in December 2015, the county’s rate only decreased a tenth of percent to 2.8 in December 2016.

“The very large government sector in Albany County has been fairly stable,” Bullard said. “So the overall economy has been more stable. Also, the lack of oil rigs over there means Albany County doesn’t go through as many ups and downs as other parts of the state.”

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