CASPER, Wyo. — Various indicators show that Wyoming’s economy is now performing better than it was during the energy bust but has yet to catch up with the losses of recent years, according to a state economic report.
Between April and September of this year, the state’s economy improved every month by more than 2 percent compared to the year before in sales and use tax paid by the mining sector, the number of tourists visiting Wyoming parks and weekly wages in the private sector, according to a recent report.
Economist Jim Robinson of the state’s Economic Analysis Division said the report continues to show a stabilizing economy.
On the job front, workers in the private sector worked more hours and earned better wages in September, a trend of improvement that is heartening, Robinson told the Casper Star-Tribune .
Mining employment was up nearly 13 percent from last year’s September, according to the report, but overall private employment was down by about 1,500, largely due to a decrease in the leisure and hospitality sector.
Recent revenue projections released by state economists, and used to build the governor’s recommended budget every year, show some positive numbers over the coming two-year budget cycle. Oil and gas prices have improved and may creep up more. Coal prices and production have also improved and should maintain those firmer numbers in the next few years.
But state revenue remains down and is a concern for lawmakers heading into the budget session in a few months. K-12 public education is facing a $430 million deficit over the next two years, according to the state’s Legislative Service Office.
Year to date, Wyoming’s mining sector has paid about $26.1 million less in sales and use taxes than is the norm. By the end of the year, that gap may narrow, Robinson said. But it doesn’t make up for the shortfall of many negative months.
The report shows that the state’s economy is settling, Robinson said.
Improvements one month to the next may bring Wyoming closer to the norm, not above it, he said.
“We are in that pattern now where we are waiting for the next thing to give the state a boost,” he said.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com