Recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis interpreted by The Wall Street Journal show the downturn in the energy sector is affecting Mountain West states very differently.
Wyoming is likely to be the hardest hit even though it produces less oil and gas than other states listed including Colorado. While The Wall Street Journal lists Wyoming's exposure at around 16 percent, Jim Robinson, principal economist with Wyoming Economic Analysis Division, projects exposure to be closer to 20-23 percent. In Colorado, it's about 3%.
The Cowboy State's dependence on energy may make it the most vulnerable state in the country, according to The Wall Street Journal analysis. Alaska, Oklahoma, North Dakota and New Mexico round out the top five states most exposed to the energy sector's recent downturn induced by international conflict and COVID-19 .
Mark Haggerty of Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research firm based in Bozeman, Mont., says it comes down to diversification. Colorado, he said, has other sources of revenue, including an income tax. "So both the economy, the kind of mix of industries and its fiscal structure make it much less reliant on energy," Haggerty said.
Montana also has about 3% of its economic output coming from energy production, and over the years it's also grown into new sectors.
"It's largely focused on both our recreation assets and public lands, but also our airport capacity and universities that have spun off a lot of high-tech industries," Haggerty said.
Wyoming generally receives more than 50 percent of its revenues from the mining and energy sector.
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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