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ARCHIVED  October 22, 1999

Wyoming’s economic indicators looking up

Wyoming’s economy and our economic indicators are improving.

Tourism this year has been strong, and it looks like we’ll reach the three million-visitor level for Yellowstone National Park once again. But more is going on than just tourism. Infrastructure capacity building is prevalent in many sectors and in many areas across our state. New businesses are being created, and many of those businesses are flourishing. Property values are rising in many areas, and demand for good ranchland homes and views with scenic vistas is intense.

Look at some of the principal indicators: increased employment, for example. Of the 13,758 employers surveyed in Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 44 percent added jobs in 1998. Forty-two percent did not.

The net gain was some 2,000 jobs.

It’s interesting to see which specific sectors performed well and which suffered. Of the 1,861 actual jobs created, 17 percent were in the mining sector, 16 percent in construction, and 14 percent in transportation and communication. The service sector, which has seen tremendous increase in recent years, continues to grow. In the past year, of all the jobs that were created, the service sector accounted for a whopping 24 percent of that total.

It is interesting to note that the biggest growth has been for businesses that were started in the past three years – some 33 percent of all the jobs created. What’s also interesting to note is that businesses formed in the 1970s rank second in terms of new jobs created. These companies added more employees than companies formed in the ’80s and more than companies started between 1990 and 1994.

The next factor you need to consider is payroll. For the past year – second quarter 1998 through second quarter 1999 – wages and salaries grew by 4.1 percent for nonagricultural employment, whereas actual employment grew by .6 percent. The biggest gainers in terms of wages were manufacturing at 14.7 percent, and finance, insurance and real estate by 9.8 percent.

State government ranked last with 1.5 percent wage increase, followed by local government at 2.4 percent. Clearly, these data indicate that better wage growth is taking place in the private sector than in the governmental sector.

Nationally, Wyoming is faring better. Our unemployment rate is 4.1 percent – lower than the national rate of 4.5 percent and better than recent years. At the local level, unemployment in our state is highest at Fremont County at 7.1 percent and lowest in Teton County at 0.9 percent. Natrona County unemployment sits at 4.7 percent vs. Laramie County at 3.1 percent.

During the past year, wages in the state have increased by about 4.1 percent. That is a healthy clip and certainly greater than the rate of inflation.

It’s a good indicator for our state. Factor in the fact that employment growth overall has been about 6 percent, and we can surmise that wages are going up in part because there are fewer employees and therefore, there is in certain areas, keen competition for qualified workers to fill positions in various businesses across our state.

Another factor to consider is the strength of ongoing and new minerals activity. Wyoming today is the No. 1 player in the United States in terms of natural-gas development. Nearly 1,000 permits to drill have been registered in the Gillette area for coal-base methane, and the prolific Jonah II gas field near Pinedale has hit the 750 mmcf/d threshold. Add to that, yearly coal production of nearly 300 million tons, far above any other state in the nation.

The last consideration is ongoing economic diversification. The recent opening of Boise Cascade Office Products in Casper is an example. Nearly 400 people will be employed at the state-of-the-art facility, and Casper was chosen over sites in competing states because of a reliable and advanced communications infrastructure.

Wyoming in many respects is moving forward. The Wyoming Business Council is operating on all cylinders; the Wyoming Business Alliance continues to host timely economic forums; local chambers of commerce and economic-development groups are providing effective services for their communities; and the people of Wyoming support today, more than ever, sustained and diversified economic growth.

Bill Schilling is president of the Wyoming Business Alliance/Wyoming Heritage Foundation.

Wyoming’s economy and our economic indicators are improving.

Tourism this year has been strong, and it looks like we’ll reach the three million-visitor level for Yellowstone National Park once again. But more is going on than just tourism. Infrastructure capacity building is prevalent in many sectors and in many areas across our state. New businesses are being created, and many of those businesses are flourishing. Property values are rising in many areas, and demand for good ranchland homes and views with scenic vistas is intense.

Look at some of the principal indicators: increased employment, for example. Of the 13,758 employers surveyed in…

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