Wyoming unemployment rates remain on the mend

CASPER — A little more than a year into the pandemic, Wyoming’s unemployment numbers remain better than the national average, according to a March report released on Monday by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research & Planning Section.

The department reported that the unemployment rate stayed at 5.3 percent from February to March after a steady run of 5.1 percent to 5.4 percent in the past six months, compared to the current U.S. rate, which sits at 6 percent.

“From March 2020 to March 2021, unemployment rates decreased in 17 counties and increased in six counties,” a news release by the department stated. “The largest decreases were reported in Washakie (down from 7.0 percent to 5.3 percent), Sublette (down from 9.4 percent to 7.7 percent), and Big Horn (down from 7.6 percent to 6.1 percent) counties. Unemployment rates rose in Natrona (up from 6.1 percent to 7.9 percent), Converse (up from 4.7 percent to 6.3 percent), and Campbell (up from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent) counties.”

After COVID-19 cases went up in the second quarter of 2020, the state experienced widespread job losses due to public hesitancy toward the virus and Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist’s public safety mandates.

A previous jobs report from February of this year stated that 26,733 jobs were lost in the state from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020.

One of the hardest-hit sectors was the leisure and hospitality industry, which lost 10,255 jobs. Mining, oil and gas lost 4,541 jobs. Local government lost out on 3,191 jobs. Overall, total payroll fell 6.4 percent, or approximately $216.5 million dollars, last year.

Teton experienced some of the worst job losses in the state at 21.8 percent — approximately 4,587 jobs — followed by Natrona, which saw 4,079 job losses, and Sweetwater (2,994 jobs lost) counties.

However, in a sign of good fortune, seasonal unemployment number patterns look to be returning to normal in the construction, leisure and hospitality, and government sectors, and unemployment numbers stayed steady from February to March of this year.

Washakie County saw month-to-month unemployment numbers fall in March from 7 percent to 5.3 percent, Sublette from 9.4 percent to 7.7 percent, and Big Horn from 7.6 percent to 6.1 percent. However, according to the news release, the highest unemployment rates throughout the state remain in Natrona County at 7.9 percent, Sublette 7.7 percent and Sweetwater at 7.1 percent.

Currently, Weston County leads the state with the lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, followed by Teton County at 4.2 percent, and Niobrara and Goshen counties both at 4.3 percent.