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Wyoming Last Place In Labor Force Recovery Since Great Recession

Labor force changes from June 2009, the end of the Great Recession to October of 2018
Cooper McKim
Obtained from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Numbers

The majority of states have recovered labor forces since the end of the Great Recession, but Wyoming has actually seen the steepest drop in the country.

Since 2009, Wyoming has shed 15,700 workers from its workforce. That's a five percent fall, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers. West Virginia — a state similarly reliant on the energy industry — follows close behind at 4.47 percent. Only 12 states saw a decline in workforce.

Jim Robinson, the principal economist for Wyoming’s economic analysis division, said it’s tied to the boom-bust nature of the energy industry. Wyoming has lost thousands of jobs in the past decade due to shifts in pricing and demand for coal, oil, and gas — not to mention corporate decisions leading to financial difficulties. Robinson said between 2014 and 2016, oil jobs fell by nearly 10,000. And when people get laid-off, they often leave.

“We saw booming economies in Colorado and Utah. That acts as a draw on the people of WY,” Robinson said.

Highest labor force increases since June 2009
Credit Cooper McKim / Obtained from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Numbers
Obtained from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Numbers
Highest labor force increases since June 2009

Utah has seen the largest growth nationally in its workforce - up 16 percent.

Robinson said jobs are starting to come back thanks in part to better crude oil prices. He wrote that, two years ago, oil and gas had 10,200 jobs and has now improved to 12,500 with better pricing.

"It looks like our job growth is probably closer to around 1000 to 1500 jobs which is about half a percent job growth,” Robinsons said, up from the same time last year. "But yet it’s still job growth. That’s what we’re trying to keep track of, as we recover from our energy recession.”

While mining has been the primary driver of job growth, Robinson says tourism and health services have also contributed.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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