Wyoming Economist Sees Hope For Energy Industry
While there is a fair amount of bad news in the latest ''Wyoming Insight" monthly report on the state economy, there are also some hopeful signs.
That's according to the report's author, Senior State Economist Jim Robinson.
The bad news includes sales tax collections for 11 months of fiscal year 2016 that were down by 21 percent--or $157.6 million-- across the state. The news was especially bad in Campbell County (-$43.6 million), Converse County (-$33.3 million) and Natrona County (-$29 million).
Only three counties--Teton, Lincoln, and Weston, are showing an increase in sales tax collections for the fiscal year.
Fiscal Year 2016 includes the time between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. The sales tax numbers for June aren't yet final.
But while the final numbers from Fiscal Year 2016 aren't going to be very good, Robinson says there are some positive trends in energy prices.
Both oil and natural gas prices saw increases in June, and while crude oil has been trending upwards for a while, natural gas had been somewhat stagnant prior to last month. But natural gas prices at the Opal hub averaged $2.30 per mcf last month, a significant increase over the May average of $1.89 per mcf.
Robinson says natural gas prices will probably have to get and stay above $3 per mcf to really benefit the state economy, but the latest numbers offer hope that gas prices may have bottomed out and are on the way up.
He also says increasing natural gas prices also stand to help the state's coal industry, since higher gas prices make coal a more attractive alternative.
Meanwhile, crude oil prices have been in the range of $49 per barrel, just below the $50 a barrel price that Robinson says would start to spur some interest in oil development in the state. Those prices have been gradually trending upwards for several months.
Robinson says another hopeful sign is that the tourism season seems to be "off and running."
While it's still early in the travel season, Robinson says indicators such as visits to the state's national parks and recent sales tax collections in counties where tourism is a major factor bode well for the 2016 tourism season.