CASPER – Wyoming’s unemployment rate edged up from 5.3% to 5.4% in April, according to new figures released by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services last week.
Despite this, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains below the national average, which currently stands at 6.1%.
David Bullard, senior economist in the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, told the Casper Star-Tribune that there was more than one way to increase the unemployment rate.
“The most obvious way is for people to lose their jobs,” Bullard said. “But in the other direction, people who are not in the workforce are starting to look for work. If they decide to start looking, then they are counted as unemployed.
And that’s what the state saw in March and April, according to Bullard.
In May, Governor Mark Gordon announced that Wyoming would end its participation in federal supplementary unemployment benefits effective June 19, joining several other states, including Montana and Idaho. Bullard believes this will encourage even more people to look for work, or at least push them in that direction.
Unemployment rates in the state from March to April generally fall due to seasonal job gains in construction, retail trade and professional and business services, according to the report.
Park County’s rate fell from 5.9% to 5.1%, Big Horn’s from 6.1% to 5.3%, and Johnson’s from 5.9% to 5.2%.
Natrona County, meanwhile, had the highest unemployment rate in April at 7.4%.
“We have seen significant job losses in the energy sector over the past year,” Bullard said. “Natrona County and the Casper region depend heavily on the energy, oil and gas industry.”
On top of that, Bullard pointed out that low energy prices have sunk businesses that support the energy sector, such as transportation and wholesaling.
Unemployment peaked at 8.5% in Wyoming last May, but in January it fell back to 5.1%. It has since fallen to 5.4%. Still, Bullard believes that several factors have contributed to a rapid recovery within the state.
“From my understanding, [Wyoming] never close like other states, ”Bullard said. “Even though we had restrictions, they weren’t as severe as what we see in many other states.”
Wyoming’s economy is also a bit more diverse than some states, such as Hawaii, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country, according to Bullard.
However, despite Wyoming’s relatively low unemployment figures, the state faces an uncertain future with the decline of fossil fuels that have long supported its economy. Earlier this year, the Wyoming legislature cut state spending by $ 430 million and eliminated 324 state positions.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. Due to improved revenue forecasts, the 2022 state budget is planned without cuts.