Wyoming jobless rate increases slightly
CASPER — Wyoming’s unemployment rate ticked up in February, reversing a downward trend experienced by the state after last year’s pandemic-related closures were lifted.
The Equality State ended February with a 5.3 percent jobless rate, up from 5.1 percent in January and 5.2 percent in December, according to figures released by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Still, the latest numbers offered some positive news: Wyoming’s unemployment rate was nearly a percentage point below the national average of 6.2 percent.
Fifteen of Wyoming’s 23 counties experienced increases in their unemployment rates in February, the state figures show. Three counties didn’t see a change, while five enjoyed a decrease over the previous month.
Natrona County continues to feel the brunt of Wyoming’s economic slowdown, at least from a jobs perspective. The county, which is an oil and gas hub, saw its unemployment rate rise to 8.9 percent in February, up a half percentage point from January and more than three points from February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Wyoming never went into a full lockdown like those implemented in some states, though the state did impose significant restrictions on businesses used by the public. The pandemic also exacerbated the difficulties being experienced by the state’s fossil fuels sector, and counties that rely heavily on industry for their economies continue to suffer from some of the state’s highest jobless rates.
The three highest unemployment rates in February were Natrona County (8.9 percent), Sublette County (8.8 percent) and Sweetwater County (7.6 percent).
Gas prices fall by 1 cent per gallon
CHEYENNE — Wyoming gas prices have fallen a penny per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.88 per gallon as of Monday, according to GasBuddy.com's daily survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.
Gas prices in Wyoming are 22.4 cents per gallon higher than a month ago, and stand 81.7 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest gas in Wyoming was priced at $2.41 per gallon as of Monday, while the most expensive was $3.39 per gallon, a difference of 98 cents per gallon.
The national average price of gasoline has fallen 0.4 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.86 per gallon as of Monday. The national average is up 9.9 cents per gallon from a month ago, and stands 95.5 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
Lummis proposes removing grizzlies from endangered list
CODY — U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said she was prompted to be the next member of the state delegation to introduce a bill delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear because of the new Secretary of the Interior.
Lummis, who objected to the nomination, said she saw Deb Haaland had supported a bill to permanently keep the bear on the Endangered Species Act.
The freshman senator said she didn’t want to waste any time ensuring that didn’t happen.
“Yellowstone and Grand Teton are about at their maximum capacity,” she said. “Wildlife managers that live near the bears and study them closely have a better idea of population parameters than bureaucrats in Washington. It’s time to delist the grizzly in our area and let science dictate our wildlife policy.”
Sen. John Barrasso, who is also supporting this bill, and Rep. Liz Cheney have both advanced similar bills in the past in the wake of the Yellowstone grizzly being returned to the ESA after some environmental groups sued following the bear’s delisting in 2017.
Park County Commmissioner Chairman Lee Livingston has been one of the most outspoken, local voices in support of delisting the grizzly bear.
He said permanent ESA listing of the bear would defeat the purpose of the law, which he also saw being abused for the gray wolf. Former President Donald Trump’s administration delisted the wolf from the ESA in November.
Livingston said many environmental groups fuel propaganda about keeping different species on the ESA as “a major league fundraiser.”