Wyoming population declined last year, biggest dip since ‘89

Population growth state-by-state. (US Census Bureau)

WYOMING – Wyoming’s total resident population shrank to 579,315 in July 2017, according to estimates released by the US Census Bureau. The annual decrease from July 2016 was 5,595 persons (-1%), the largest decline since 1989.

Various factors are responsible for the population change. The natural increase (7,513 births less 4,847 deaths) was 2,666; but the estimated net migration (in-migration less outmigration) was about -8,300, which means that approximately 8,300 more persons left Wyoming than moved into the state between July 2016 and July 2017. In contrast, the net migration was about -4,000 between July 2015 and July 2016.

The dropoff in Wyoming’s mineral extraction economy was a major reason why people left the state.

“People tend to move to areas where the economy is vibrant, which is particularly true for Wyoming,” said Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the Economic Analysis Division.

The contraction of Wyoming’s employment started in early 2015. Though the mining industry (including oil and gas extraction) in the state gained some ground and added over 1,000 jobs between mid-2016 and mid-2017, nearly all other sectors of the economy still experienced employment decreases, led by construction and government. As a result, the overall payroll employment shrunk by 3,600 or -1.3 percent, the worst performance in the country during the period. Continued employment decline, consequently, contributed to the increase in outmigration.

Wyoming was not alone but led the way in population decline. Nationally, the population was an estimated 325.7 million in 2017, an increase of 0.7 percent from the previous year. Idaho’s 2.2 percent rate led the nation, followed by Nevada (2.0%), Utah (1.9%), and Washington (1.7%). Wyoming’s decline rate was the steepest in the nation, and seven other states lost population, including West Virginia (-0.7%), Illinois (-0.3%), Alaska (-0.2%), and Hawaii (-0.1%) during the 12- month period.