More Mixed Signals On Wyoming Economy
A Senior State Economist says he would characterize the latest Wyoming economic report as "neutral."
The good news in the report includes modest increases in the prices of both oil and natural gas. West Texas Intermediate crude oil averaged $51.30 per barrel during April, compared to an average price of $49.58 per barrel in March. The April 2017 price was up by $10.34 per barrel compared to a year earlier.
Meanwhile, natural gas prices in April have averaged $2.76 per million British Thermal units (MMBtu) compared to $2.57 in March. The April natural gas price was also up by over a dollar over the April 2016 price of $1.71 per MMBtu. Robinson says the March oil rig count in Wyoming was at 9 and the conventional gas rig count for March was also 9.
Perhaps the best news in the entire report is that year-to-date applications for permits to drill for oil were at 2,358 as of the end of March, compared to 1,395 one year earlier. That seems to show an increased optimism among oil producers about a possible uptick in the industry.
But the latest state sales and use tax collection figures aren't good, down by 12.9 percent (or $65.5 million) through the first nine months of fiscal year 2017 compared to the same time in FY 2016. Campbell County is being hit especially hard, with a $22.3 million decline. Natrona County's collections are down by $8.1 million.
But Robinson says moderately good news can be found in the statewide year-to-date numbers for housing permits, which are up by 2.2 percent. Single family permits are up by 5.1 percent, but permits for multi-family units are down by 14.9 percent.
The economist says the overall good news for the statewide economy over the next few months is the arrival of the summer travel season. Tourism has been one of the few bright spots in the state economy over the past year or so, and is likely to once again provide a boost over the next few months, according to Robinson. Huge crowds are expected in much of the state to view a total solar eclipse in August.