Wyoming’s population decreases for first time since 1990

Lincoln County grows at nearly twice the rate as any other Wyo. county

CHEYENNE — Wyoming’s total resident population contracted to 585,501 in July 2016, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The annual decrease from July 2015 was 1,054 persons, or 0.2 percent, the first decline since 1990.

There are two factors attributing to population change. The natural increase (7,590 births less 4,838 deaths) was 2,752, but the estimated net migration (in-migration less out-migration) was about -3,800, which means that approximately 3,800 more persons left Wyoming than moved into the state between July 2015 and July 2016.  In contrast, the revised annual population growth was 2,913 between July 2014 and July 2015.

Goshen County led the state with the steepest population decrease of 1.5 percent between July 2015 and July 2016. Hot Springs, Natrona, and Platte counties also experienced a decline of 1.4 percent each.

“Migration is mostly driven by changes in employment, which is particularly true for Wyoming,” said Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with State of Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division. “People tend to move to areas where jobs are available, or conversely, may leave the areas where employment opportunities become limited.”

Laramie, Lincoln, and Park were the only counties that showed growth rate of at least 1.0 percent, adding 953 residents, 353 residents, and 297 residents, respectively.

Lincoln County grew by 1.9 percent, followed by Laramie and Park at 1 percent each.

Due to the protracted drop in both oil and natural gas prices starting in late 2014, and a severe decline in coal production in the first half of 2016, the whole mining industry (including oil and gas extraction) in the state lost more than 8,600 jobs (or about -32.0 percent), and the overall payroll employment shrunk by 15,500 or -5.2 percent between January 2015 and June 2016.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate increased from 3.9 percent to 5.5 percent. Such a severe drop in employment, undoubtedly, contributed to the increase in outmigration. In addition, the labor market nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, showed strong expansion, which attracted a number of Wyoming energy workers and residents during the period.

The vast majority of Wyoming’s counties experienced negative net migration, meaning that more residents moved out than moved in between July 2015 and July 2016. Net migration of -1,600 for Natrona, and nearly -1,000 each for Campbell and Sweetwater were the worst among counties.

Only Albany, Lincoln, and Teton counties demonstrated year-over-year employment growth in the second quarter of 2016. Moderate population growth in counties such as Albany, Crook, and Teton were mostly attributed to natural increases instead of migration.

On the other hand, in many rural counties with low total population but a high proportion of older residents, such as Goshen, Hot Springs, Niobrara, Platte, Washakie, and Weston, births were either outpaced or nearly outpaced by deaths.

“As a result of supply and demand rebalancing for energy commodities, prices have rebounded significantly since early 2016.  Accordingly, Wyoming’s economy was stabilized in recent months (although at a greatly reduced level), which should lessen outmigration,” Liu said.

More details can be found at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/pop/CO-16est.pdf.

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