New Wyoming Economic Report Is Not Good News
A new report from the state Department of Administration and Information includes some very sobering numbers, although Principal Economist Jim Robinson says the figures shouldn't be surprising in view of low oil and natural gas prices.
The report, covering July of 2015, shows statewide sales tax collections were down by a whopping 18.6%--or $13.7 million--compared to July of 2014. Robinson says that may be a little misleading because the sales tax figures for July 2014 were unusually strong. He also cautions against overreacting to numbers from a single month compared to longer term trends.
But he says the numbers do reflect the struggles of the state's energy sector and the importance of the oil and gas industries to Wyoming's economy. Not surprisingly, two of the counties which are most dependent on the energy industry were especially hard hit. Campbell County saw a decline of $4.4 million in sales tax collections, while Natrona County collected $2.9 million less compared to July of 2014.
Laramie County sales tax collections were down by roughly $1 million, or about 12%. Statewide, only six of 23 counties collected more sales taxes in July of 2015 than in 2014. In terms of the energy industry, Robinson says he doesn't expect much change either for better or worse over the next few months.
Overall, there were 14,000 fewer jobs in oil and gas in Wyoming this year compared to July of 2014. The only good news in that area was a modest gain of 200 jobs in those sectors in July compared to June of this year.
Robinson says he doesn't expect many more job losses in oil and gas, but the prospects for new jobs don't look good either.
Despite the overall bleak picture painted by the report, Wyoming overall has added about 600 jobs in a year to year comparison between July of 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, many of those jobs were probably lower paying because much of the growth came in the leisure and hospitality sector. Those jobs as a general rule tend to not pay as well as jobs in the oil and gas industries.