United Way: More Working Poor These Days
The Executive Director of the United Way of Laramie County says the state's low unemployment rate doesn't tell the whole story of how Wyoming residents are doing financially.
Connie Sloan Cathcart notes Wyoming has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at only 4% in August. But she says just because people are working doesn't mean they have lots of money, especially those workers who must support a family.
Sloan-Cathcart says Needs Inc. and other local charities are seeing a lot of families who need help with food or other necessities because their paychecks simply aren't large enough to pay for food, housing. utilities, and transportation to get to work for the entire month.
That seems to be confirmed by state economic figures that show Wyoming lost about 14,000 oil and gas industry jobs between July 2014 and July of this year.
Such jobs tend to pay well, but they have been largely replaced by jobs in such sectors as leisure and hospitality and other lower paying service industry jobs. Because most of the former oil and gas industry employees have found other jobs, they don't show up in the unemployment numbers.
Other workers may have left the state or given up looking for work, but again they don't show up as officially unemployed in state surveys.
State economist Jim Robinson said recently that while there may not be many more oil and gas industry layoffs over the next few months, those industries are also unlikely to add jobs as long as energy prices remain low.
The local impact of those trends is clearly seen in the large numbers of working poor who need help versus the smaller number of people who have no jobs at all, according to Sloan-Cathcart.