Sublette population plunges in latest Census

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming’s population is growing. It’s still the least-populated state in the country, and it’s growing at a slower pace than the rest of America, but it is growing.

Sublette County, however, is going the opposite direction – at rates beyond any other county in Wyoming.

Those numbers were confirmed in the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2020 Census Redistricting Data earlier this month. That was the first set of population data available for counties, cities, towns, American Indian reservations, legislative districts, school districts and statistical areas such as census tracts and census blocks.

Total population for Wyoming grew by 13,225 people, or 2.3 percent. That was the seventh-slowest growing state in the country and fell far below the national growth of 7.4 percent. Sublette County experienced the steepest drop in population, falling 14.8 percent, out of the 14 Wyoming counties that experienced drops.

U.S. Census findings indicated the major indicators were natural change of birth versus death rate and net migration. At the state level, about 12,000 people left Wyoming than arrived between 2010 and 2020. That was largely attributed to the decline in the energy industry since June 2014 – particularly in 2015 and 2016 when the state lost one-third (9,200 people) of its mineral extraction industry payroll jobs.

“Change in migration is mostly driven by changes in employment in Wyoming, while the fluctuation in labor force and employment always depends on the health of the state’s pivotal history – mining (including oil and gas extraction),” Dr. Wenlin Liu, the state’s chief economist, said.

The natural change, births over deaths, increased the state’s population by 25,200, although that dropped in many of the rural counties due to their aging populations.

Wyoming’s minority population grew 34.4 percent and largely contributed to the state’s population growth. Hispanic was the largest minority group in Wyoming with 59,046 in April 2020 – an increase of 17.5 percent. The Black or African-American population grew 8.8 percent during the same period while the Asian population grew 17.7 percent. The state’s minority population made up just 18.6 percent of its total population, which ranked Wyoming as the eighth-lowest state in the country.

“Both the nation and Wyoming’s population continue to grow in racial and ethnic diversity,” Liu said.

It’s also worth noting that as of April 1, 2020, about 69 percent of Wyoming’s population (398,304 people) lived in incorporated places. Nearly half of the state’s residents (49.6 percent) lived in 10 cities with populations of more than 10,000. A measured 62.9 percent of the state’s population resides in towns or cities of more than 2,000.

“Nationwide, smaller places tended to lose population but more populous areas managed to grow, with population growth in this decade almost entirely in metro areas,” Liu said.