Economic recovery continues in Cowboy State

CASPER —Over the first three months of 2022, Wyoming continued to enjoy an economic recovery, a new report from the state’s economic analysis division shows. 

The state owes the revival, in part, to the decrease in coronavirus cases at the beginning of the year. That kept Americans working and buying, said the report. 

Total taxable sales grew $4.7 billion from the first quarter of 2021 to the same period in 2022 — a year-over-year growth of 17.8%. 

The report attributes this to Wyoming’s retail, mining, and leisure and hospitality industries bouncing back from their coronavirus-era slumps. 

Wyoming’s economic growth was not as strong as the national average, according to the report. 

Statewide employment grew by 3.3% from early 2021 to early 2022— an increase of about 9,000 jobs, the report said. The national average was 4.7%. 

About a third of jobs gained in Wyoming were in leisure and hospitality. Employment in that industry, which includes tourism, grew by 9.4% overall. 

That figure suggests the industry is still on the rise after a rough 2020, when Americans were encouraged to stay home and pinch pennies. 

Three other industries also experienced employment gains above 5%:  construction grew 9.6%;  mining grew 8.4%  business grew 6.9%. 

Wyoming’s total personal income — which represents all the income earned by everyone living in the state — decreased by 2.8% from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022. 

That’s the largest quarterly decrease since the end of 2016, the report said. (The report notes that federal pandemic relief money affected these numbers, making it hard to make a direct comparison between years.) 

The study also sheds light on the state’s housing market: home prices increased 16.2% year over year. Residents, expecting the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates to cool down inflation, may have been rushing to buy before the market got even more expensive, the report said. Higher mortgage rates are expected to bring down that demand in a matter of months, the report said. 

“This will likely dampen buyers’ enthusiasm and wane their activity,” it said. 

The rate of homeowners who were delinquent on mortgage payments was lower than last year. 

It’s uncertain what the rest of 2022 will look like for Wyoming’s economy. Coronavirus cases started to climb again in June, for one— driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1. 

While cases are still up since the spring, they’ve leveled in the past few weeks, according to data from the Wyoming Department of Health. Hospitalizations and deaths haven’t been rising at the same pace. 

Wyoming, along with the rest of the nation and world, is now not only contending with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, but also Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has driven oil prices up, and is causing food shortages in Africa and the Middle East, according to the New York Times.