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Wyoming’s population increased in 2022 even as deaths outnumbered births

J. Stephen Conn
Flickr via CC BY-NC 2.0

Wyoming's population increased by just under 2,500 people in 2022 according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics even as the number of deaths in the state outnumbered the number of births. The figures indicate that the state’s net migration rate was 2,494, meaning that many more people moved into Wyoming than left it between July 2021 and July 2022, the period for which the statistics were released.

“That annual time period, it was the first time at least in the last several decades where you had deaths exceed births,” said Amy Bittner, an economist with the State of Wyoming. “If you go back and look at historical data, you can see where the gap between births and deaths are getting smaller and smaller and that has to do with an aging population.”

There were 6,189 births recorded in that period compared to 6,679 deaths, a decrease of 490 people. Bittner explained the rise in population, which stood at 581,381 in July 2022, was exclusively due to newcomers moving into the Cowboy State.

Nationally, international migration was responsible for most of the population growth, which increased in size by about 1.26 million, or 0.4 percent during that period. Wyoming’s increase was due mostly to domestic migration.

“We had international and domestic but domestic meaning moving between states or from other states, that was much larger than the international [migration figures],” she said.

Some states in the region grew at faster rates than those nationally. These include Idaho at 1.8 percent, Montana at 1.5 percent, Arizona at 1.3 percent, and Utah at 1.2 percent. Wyoming’s population growth rate ranked 22nd nationally. Florida led the nation with the highest growth rate at 1.9 percent while Texas gained the largest number of residents over that period, adding 470,708 people. States in the West and South experienced the largest population increases with those in the Midwest and Northeast losing population overall. Nationally, population growth comes after historically low annual growth from July 2020 to July 2021 during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic. The net driver of the growth that did happen during this period was primarily international arrivals.

“We always see some net migration,” Bittner said. “A lot of it depends on what's going on with Wyoming's economy as well as what's going on in other states’ economies. Typically, in Wyoming in the past, if Wyoming's economy maybe wasn't doing very well but other states, essentially, the surrounding states economies were doing really well, you'd see people leaving Wyoming, and that's just, I think, pretty typical. People move to areas for economic opportunities.”

The state’s energy economy also plays a role in the ebb and flow of Wyoming’s population. These fluctuations are often most noticeable in areas that are highly dependent on energy, such as Campbell County, which lost the most residents percentage wise of any county last year. The deaths of Wyomingites from COVID-19 also played a role in the negative natural population change (more deaths than births), Bittner said.

“The pandemic has kind of changed for some people, the way they work,” Bittner said. “A lot of people, depending on their jobs may have opportunities to telework. People don't necessarily have to move for jobs, they can pick where they live, and then do their telework. And I think you're seeing that all around the U.S. and you might be seeing that a little too in Wyoming where people are maybe staying instead of leaving, or maybe people are moving to Wyoming because they get to work from home.”

Wyoming’s negative natural population change wasn’t unique as 24 states experienced similar trends.

County-level population data is set to be released by the Census Bureau this spring for the same time period.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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