Sublette experiences drop in initial Census count


WYOMING – Sublette County’s estimated population fell by 4 percent, according to the latest numbers published along with the first 2020 Census results.

According to the initial findings released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Wyoming’s total residential population grew by 13,225 people, or just 2.3 percent of its population. By contrast, that was the seventh-slowest growth rate in the country over the Census’ analyzed time frame of April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2020. It was noted throughout the state that the 2.3-percent rise was the smallest population growth rate for the state since the 1980s.

For Sublette specifically, estimations stated the county lost about 413 people in the same 10-year period.

Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, said the state’s two largest contributing factor for that growth rate were natural increase and derived net migration.

Liu shared information with the Roundup that showed the annual Census estimate in 2019 was about 1,900 more people than the actual Census count. Sublette experienced population declines from 2013 to 2017, attributing for the 4-percent drop between 2010 and 2019.

“The net-out migration for those years was obvious due to the downturn of the energy industry,” Liu told the Roundup. “You may be able to expect that the 2020 Census result for Sublette will be somewhat close to the estimate though it’s possibly they deviate quite a bit due to its small size.”

Wyoming experienced about 25,000 more births than deaths during that time but a tabulated 11,800 more residents left the state than migrated to it during that 10-year span. Liu contributed the exodus of the state due to the downturn in the energy industry dating back to mid-June 2014. Wyoming lost a third of its mineral extraction industry payroll jobs in 2015 and 2016 alone.

Those energy-sector jobs were largely responsible for Sublette’s population drop. It’s estimated 1,008 people left Sublette between 2010 and 2019, more than offsetting the 599 more births than deaths in the county.

“Change in employment always tends to drive and lead the change in migration for Wyoming, and generally speaking, people tend to move to areas where economics are vibrant,” Liu said in a statement. “In addition, the economy nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah and Idaho, showed strong expansions, which attracted many Wyoming energy workers and residents during the second half of the decade.”

Utah and Idaho experienced the two largest growth rates in the country, according to initial Census findings. Utah’s growth registered 18.4 percent while Idaho measured an estimated 17.3 percent. Colorado grew by a Census-estimated 14.5 percent.

Census results have long-reaching impacts, including an immediate impact on congressional appointment totals for each state.

For example, Colorado’s growth put it above a threshold for another U.S. House of Representative member, along with Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Texas was the only state that will receive two more votes in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade based upon the findings released earlier this week. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all lost seats.

And each person’s responses and participation in the Census mattered, as explained by Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert on the congressional appointments. She said earlier this week that New York would not have lost its seat if the state had 89 more residents. Instead, that seat went to Minnesota.

The Census findings were delayed for multiple reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple lawsuits pertaining to the Census in the last year of the Trump administration. There are two ongoing lawsuits – one in Alabama, one in Ohio – relating to the Census that could further delay its demographic data, which the Census Bureau stated is scheduled to be released Aug. 16. New restricting data was due by the end of March but those lawsuits complicate the timing. For example, the Alabama lawsuit is attempting to stop the bureau from keeping personal information in anonymized census data confidential, and a ruling in the state’s favor would delay findings by months.

The new Electoral College map, with new votes and adjusted Congressional map, will go into effect beginning with the 2024 election.

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