Wyoming To Be Among Hardest Hit By Unemployment

Apr 3, 2020

An employee at a Menards in Casper. Many businesses are laying off employees to better practice social distancing during the pandemic.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons/Menards Casper

Wyoming's unemployment rate spiked 350 percent in the last few weeks, an unprecedented rate that puts it as one of the hardest hit states in the country.

This week's Wyoming Workforce Services' report shows 4,652 new people have applied for unemployment, 900 more than the week before, and 6,010 continued claims from people who'd already filed them, 1,811 more than the week before.

Those losses are coming from all of the state's industries; the last report showed losses mainly from the leisure and hospitality industry.

State Economist Julia Wolfe with the Economic Policy Institute, a national organization, said this is just the beginning; she predicts that Wyoming will lose a total of 37,000 jobs by July. She said, like Hawaii and Nevada, Wyoming is a tourist destination with most people employed in retail and hospitality.

"Because Wyoming disproportionately employs leisure, hospitality and retail sector workers—people who work in bars, restaurants and store—they're going to be hit particularly hard," said Wolfe. "And so, we're estimating about 37,000 jobs being lost by July."

She said that doesn't take into consideration the downturn in the oil and gas industry Wyoming is currently facing.

Wolfe said state policy makers need to spend whatever funds they have to support the most vulnerable in the state.

"I guess it's just really difficult for me to imagine a rainier day than this," Wolfe said. "And I think, especially because action needs to be taken quickly, I think it's really a case where you dip into that fund and then later on build it back up. And again, it really is crucial that the federal government serves as a backstop for states who need to do this absolutely critical spending."

She said state policy makers also need to beef up benefits for the state's most vulnerable populations through programs like SNAP and TANF.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Melodie Edwards, at medward9@uwyo.edu.