Wyoming’s population declines for the third straight year

WYOMING – Wyoming’s total resident population declined for the third straight year but the contraction was not as sharp as in previous years.

According to new estimates just released by the US Census Bureau, the Cowboy State had 577,737 residents in July 2018, representing a decrease from July 2017 of 1,197 persons, or 0.2 percent.

Wyoming Economic Analysis Division attributed the decline to two factors.

A natural increase (6,840 births less 4,947 deaths) was 1,893, but the estimated net migration (in-migration less outmigration) was about -3,100, which means that approximately 3,100 more residents left Wyoming than moved into the State between July 2017 and July 2018. In contrast, the net migration was about -7,900 between July 2016 and July 2017.

Nationally, the population was an estimated 327.2 million in 2018, an increase of 0.6 percent from the previous year. Nevada’s 2.1 percent rate led the nation, followed by Idaho (2.1%), Utah (1.9%), and Arizona (1.7%). Besides Wyoming, seven other states also lost population, including West Virginia (-0.6%), Illinois (-0.4%), Alaska (-0.3%), and Hawaii (- 0.3%) during the 12-month period.

Population change by state. (US Census Bureau)

“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.

Changes in employment always tend to drive and lead the change in migration in the state. Wyoming’s economic rebound started in the beginning of 2017 and continued into 2018. The mineral extraction industry (particularly oil) has led the recovery, and its activities also contributed to other industrial sectors’ improvement such as manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, and professional services.

Wyoming population, net change. (Wyoming Economic Analysis Division)

However, the increased operational efficiency of drilling businesses means that less workers were hired back amid energy industry’s revival. In addition, payroll jobs in state and local government, and the retail trade industry in 2018 were still lower than the previous year. As a result, the state’s overall labor market featured moderate job growth and continued decline in the labor force between July 2017 and July 2018.

Moreover, the labor market nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, continued to show strong expansions, which attracted a number of Wyoming workers and residents during the period.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming declined significantly since the summer of 2016, and the current level is just slightly higher than the US average. Many baby boomers (age 54-72) are exiting the labor force by retiring. Additionally, business layoffs are very low, and the average wage increase in private industries was the highest in four years.

“Wyoming’s current labor market environment provides good opportunity and encouragement for people who are looking for jobs within the state,” Liu commented.

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