Economist: Cheyenne Economy Mixed, Casper Struggling
Jim Robinson says that while the economy in Cheyenne isn't great, there are some hopeful signs.
He says between May and June 200 new jobs were added in the private sector, and Cheyenne has been adding jobs since February. But while things seem to be headed in the right direction, Cheyenne still lost 400 jobs between June of 2015 and June 2016.
The average weekly hours worked in Cheyenne also fell slightly, from 34.7 in June 2015 to 33.2 a year later. But the average hourly wage held steady at $19.96 per hour.
Similar trends were seen in Laramie County Sales Tax Collections, which increased between May and June of this year but were still down by $800,000 year over year in June.
By contrast, Robinson says the overall economic picture in Casper is still pretty grim, with a couple of exceptions. The biggest bright spot was an increase in jobs in June of 600 compared to the month before. That reversed a trend of job losses that reached all the way back to October of 2014.
But between June of 2015 and June of this year Casper lost a whopping 2,300 jobs. Natrona County Sales Tax Collections fell by $2.2 million per month over that same period. And total sales tax collections for January through June in Natrona County were below the three-year average for that time by $15.8 million.
Sales tax collections are considered one of the best measurements of the overall state of the economy because they are collected on business transactions.
Robinson says in general the Natrona County economy mirrors the overall state economy, which he believes has probably hit bottom but also isn't showing much improvement. While he thinks Cheyenne's economy has also hit bottom he adds the "bottom isn't as low" as in Casper.
The jobless rate in Natrona County was 7.8 percent in June. The Laramie County unemployment rate wa 4.5 percent.
There are also more signs pointing to a turnaround in Cheyenne.
But he says energy industry layoffs are still possible in Natrona County, which could push the economy into another downward spiral.
By contrast Cheyenne's more diversified economy isn't as vulnerable because it probably won't be hit by any major layoffs caused by low energy prices.
That's because the Cheyenne-area energy industry isn't as dominant as it is in Casper.