jobs

Gunwerks

The Wyoming Business Council has recommended full funding to expand the Gunwerks firearms manufacturing facility in Cody. The project is expected to bring in up to 66 new jobs.

Screenshot from the report with a flow chart of carbon technology
American Jobs Project

A new report from the American Jobs Project outlines how Wyoming could become an economic leader in carbon technology. That includes developing activated carbon, graphene – a type of metal – carbon foam, and nanotubes. Those are materials that go into home insulations, concrete, and transmission lines.

Today’s jobs report that puts unemployment at a low of 3.9%  is not necessarily good news for companies competing for potential workers, especially in rural areas, where it’s already challenging to attract labor. Businesses and governments are coming up with creative solutions.

Breakdown of direct, indirect, and induced jobs per 100 new employees for wind, coal, and slaughterhouses
Patrick Manning, Matthew Halama, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services / Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

A new report outlining the status of Wyoming's economy and workforce shows slaughterhouses could create more indirect and induced jobs than wind and coal state lines employees.

Utah and Idaho were the leading states for employment growth over the past year, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also in the top five were Nevada and Colorado.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

The Gillette Workforce Center had a front row seat for the town’s coal woes.

The office has cream-colored walls, decorated with motivational posters and pictures of coal mines. Vermona Petersen is the manager of the center, which helps people find a new job.

“At the height of the layoffs last year, we were seeing between 250 and 300 people a day,” she said. 

Wyoming coal mines laid off more than 450 workers last March amid financial troubles exacerbated by low natural gas prices and debt.

Remington Reitsma

The downturn in the energy industry over the last couple years has left a scarcity of jobs for many college graduates from the University of Wyoming, and across the country.

Over the weekend, the University of Wyoming hosted the annual geosciences job fair which hoped to help the problem. But the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous job fair has seen better years. In the past the job fair has hosted up to 32 companies, and this year there were only six. Even so, Matt Rhoads, a graduate student from Illinois State, said he wasn't discouraged.

Wyoming's largest economic sector has taken a nosedive in recent years with the crash in oil, coal, and natural gas prices, but the August Wyoming Insight report from the Economic Analysis division shows things may be starting to stabilize. 

According to the report, the unemployment rate has stayed at 5.7 percent since June.

“Both natural gas price and oil price have been rising,” said state economist Wenlin Liu. “That’s a good signal. And another sign we have been seeing is that the unemployment insurance claim has been flattening.”

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Flickr via Creative Commons

Despite the major layoffs in the coal industry this year, the unemployment rate in Wyoming rose slightly in June, up by .1% to 5.7% since May. Although that rise isn’t significant, it is a serious increase from last June when it was only 4.2%.

A report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services says almost every county in Wyoming has seen increases in unemployment since last summer. Senior Economist David Ballard says the largest of these increases were seen in the more energy dependent counties. Natrona, Converse, and Campbell County all increased by over 3%.

Wyoming's average personal income of just over $55,000 ranked seventh in the nation in 2015. Wyoming workers earned over $10,000 higher than the average in the region.

However, wages decreased by $37 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to the third. According to the state's Economic Analysis Division, the construction sector has had the largest impact on income growth, while mining and farming have seen the biggest decline.

Economist Jim Robinson says despite recent downward trends in the energy industry, he expects things to stabilize.

Wyoming’s unemployment rate continues to rise. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reports that due to a downturn in the energy sector, unemployment rose from 4.4 percent in December to 4.7 in January. 

State Senior Economist David Bullard said that unemployment saw a significant increase of almost a point from January of 2015. While energy rich areas have been impacted the most, Bullard said the downturn is impacting the entire state.

Google Earth

Peabody Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the world and operates mines all over the United States. But some of its senior lenders are now recommending bankruptcy, as the company faces potential defaults on several loans.

With energy prices in a slump, oil and gas employment in Wyoming was down 30% in December from the same time in 2014, to just under 13,000 jobs. Economist David Bullard says oil prices have nose dived over the last year.

“So it's not surprising to see job loss in oil and gas here in Wyoming," Bullard says.

Oil prices are currently hovering around $30 a barrel. 

Miles Bryan

Blake Dahlinger is a 33 year old musician. He lives in Los Angeles, but he grew up in Rawlins.

“It was obviously a small town,” he says. “But it was a really great place to grow up.”

The thing is, Dahlinger’s brand of frenetic punk rock didn’t get much play in Rawlins. So he did what a lot of Wyoming kids do: he finished school and moved away to a big city.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The report by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations, details Chinese commercial investment in the US by congressional district. Wyoming, with just one congressional district, has seen around $770 million in Chinese investment state-wide.  According to Shawn Reese of the Wyoming Business Council, this is largely the result of two joint ventures between Chinese and American oil and gas companies in the DJ Basin and Powder River Basin.

Wyoming Economic Analysis Division

The effects of low oil and natural gas prices are apparent in this month’s jobs numbers for Wyoming. Although overall employment in Wyoming grew, the oil and gas sector shed more than a thousand jobs from this time last year.

“The job losses have still been concentrated in the mining industry. We just haven’t seen the spillover into other industries,” said Jim Robinson, the state economist, although he cautioned that that job losses in oil and gas support sectors could take longer to show up.  

Coal companies in the Powder River Basin are hiring, and some of those workers will likely come from Central Appalachia.

Companies there have been laying off miners and shuttering operations in recent years. But in Wyoming, companies like Cloud Peak Energy are hiring.

Stephanie Joyce

Wind power is a growing part of the energy mix in the United States. And along with that growth, there are new job opportunities for people to install and repair the 30-story-tall wind turbines. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, a unique skill set is required -- the fearlessness of a pro rock climber along with the know-how of a skilled mechanic.

Wyoming’s unemployment rate rose 0.4 percent in July. It’s a statistically significant jump, but Tom Gallagher, with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, said this rise in unemployment could actually indicate positive growth for the economy, and may not mean people are losing their jobs.

People who have stopped actively looking for work are not counted in unemployment statistics. Gallagher said a spike in unemployment rates could mean those workers have started up their job searches again.

Miles Bryan

The town of Jackson has long struggled to find enough affordable housing for its seasonal workers. Right now, the average rental property there is going for 2800 dollars a month. But lately, the popularity of house sharing websites have transformed the housing problem into a housing crisis. And that’s got local business owners looking in new places for their for seasonal hires.

It's midmorning at a campsite just outside of Jackson and Christen Johnson is setting up her camp stove for a cup of coffee before work--”it came with the van,” she tells me.

Miles Bryan

In late July President Obama signed the Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act. The bill is designed to get people with disabilities working in commercial businesses, and get them out of service provider owned companies, known as “sheltered workshops.” State officials here in Wyoming are on board with these changes, but some providers say closing sheltered workshops will leave people with disabilities with few options.

Miles Bryan

Last week we told you about how the cost of building a new high school in Rawlins is running millions of dollars more than was expected. Costs are up because construction companies can’t find enough workers in Wyoming. And it isn’t easy to bring them in from out of state.

Jeremy Smith is the Business Manager for Sheridan’s School District One in Ranchester. I met him on a beautiful morning in Northern Wyoming, and he’s excited to show me the new Tongue River Elementary school--or at least the the rolling pasture where the school should be.

Climb Wyoming

Climb Wyoming says it will discontinue its Sweetwater County program due to a decrease in public funding and other considerations.  The non-profit organization trains and places single mothers into career-track jobs. 

Climb Wyoming’s Shannon Brooks Hamby said that the Sweetwater County Operation will shut down on October first despite the fact that the program was very successful. 

Robert Verzo via Flickr

Construction contractors in Wyoming are struggling to find enough workers.

Wyoming Construction Coalition President Josh Carnahan says energy development -- particularly oil -- is fueling a rapid rise in construction jobs around the state.

“It impacts prices because we need to recruit employees to come in and do the work,” Carnahan says. The only way on a short term to attract employees is pay them a little higher and offer them a little better benefits.”

Unemployment Up Slightly

Jun 24, 2014

The Wyoming unemployment rate rose slightly last month.   

The Department of Workforce Services says the rate was 3.8 % in May a point-one percent increase from April.  But the Department says that is due to young people leaving school and entering the workforce. 

The unemployment rate dropped nearly a full percentage point from May of last year where it stood at 4.6%. 

The lowest unemployment rate was in Converse County at 2.8%, the highest unemployment rate was in Teton County at 5.7%. 

The newly discovered abundance of domestic oil and gas is creating a shortage of something else: the petroleum engineers who regulate drilling activities. Government petroleum engineers approve companies’ drilling plans and inspect wells after they’re completed to make sure they’re not at risk of contaminating water or blowing out, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, there just aren’t enough petroleum engineers to go around.  

Melodie Edwards

Some of the best paying jobs in Wyoming are in the oil and gas industry, but only ten percent are held by women.  Energy companies are trying to attract more women to fill open positions.  But women who do want to enter the field for the higher-paying jobs face a lot of barriers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports.

Wyoming is one of the easiest places in the country to make money. That’s according to a report by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative advocacy nonprofit.

The report ranks states based on things like labor and tax policies. Report author Jonathan Williams says those factors can help predict job creation and other forms of economic growth.

“We find that … states that value competitiveness, lower taxes, and reasonable regulations are the states that are growing today,” Williams said.

Unemployment Is Down, But So Is Job Growth

Mar 18, 2014

Wyoming’s statewide unemployment rate fell very slightly from four-point-four percent in December to four-point-three percent in January.  The Wyoming Department of workforce services says most of the state saw improvement from the same time during previous year.  But Economist David Bullard says it was not all good, noting that job growth was slow.

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