As many communities in the state are struggling to retain residents, Laramie has grown by 0.2% from July 2017 to July 2018, according to a report issued by the state’s Economic Analysis Division using recent population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report showed an increase in Laramie of 63 residents for a total population of 32,473, placing the city in fourth for growth overall behind Buffalo and Mills — which tied for third — and Cody. Cheyenne topped the list with 0.6% percent growth, or about 370 residents.
Most of the other municipalities — 75% of the larger cities in the state — saw decreases in population. Thermopolis saw the biggest decrease by percentage at 2.8%, and Casper saw the largest decrease of people with 351 lost, consisting of about 0.6% of its population.
“Albany County is relatively one of the fastest increases together with Laramie, Lincoln and Teton counties,” said Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the EAD. “(The three) are all at 6% since 2010. … Those counties don’t have mineral extraction.”
One factor that tends to influence facets of the economy statewide is the energy sector, which is still trying to recover from the economic downturn in 2015-2016. While the state overall saw a decrease in population again in 2018, the energy sector’s road to recovery helped it to be significantly less. The report showed 1,197 fewer people left the state from 2017-2018 than the 5,356 who left the prior year.
“It’s in recovery, rebounding since early 2017, but the pace of rebound is still relatively moderate,” Liu said.
Most of the cities that saw increases, he added, are in the northwest and southeastern parts of the state, which tend to have “steady economies” since they’re not as heavily influenced by mineral extraction.
A factor more unique to Laramie specifically, the University of Wyoming also helps the city’s population grow, especially as it boasts larger and larger incoming freshman class sizes.
“When we talk about net migration — which is people moving in vs. people moving out, things like that — Albany County always has some net international migration each year … including the international students,” Liu said. “That’s definitely contributing to the steady and yet slow increase for Albany County.”
Looking statewide, Wyoming’s labor force is starting to level off, which Liu said was a “good sign” because it shows fewer people are leaving, and the ones that do leave are being replaced. This will continue, he said, as Colorado’s economy is showing signs it’s “finally somewhat slowing down a little it.”
“Our state’s unemployment rate is 3.6% now — that’s very low, that’s the same as the U.S. average,” he said. “What it means many for our younger workers, they’re able to find employment in state. If you don’t have to move out, you have opportunities.”
The report also said more than 68% of Wyoming residents live in incorporated places, and more than 47% of state residents live in 10 cities with a population of more than 10,000.