Latest Wyoming Economic Report Is Mixed News
The Wyoming Insight Economic Report for February includes some mixed signals on the state economy, according to Senior State Economist Jim Robinson.
The major good news in the report is that crude oil prices are continuing to trend upwards, albeit at a slow pace.
Robinson says the West Texas Intermediate crude price averaged $53.34 per barrel in February. That was only a slight improvement over the January 2017 average of $52.51 per barrel.
But a year-over-year comparison with February of 2016 shows the average price has gone up by $22.95 per barrel since February 2016. Robinson notes the price of oil has been showing steady improvement for the last several months. He says that while the price isn't yet high enough to revive the overall oil industry in Wyoming, it is sparking some drilling activity.
Robinson says the state has averaged 19 drilling rigs in operation over the last few months.That compares with only seven rigs as recently as last June. But he says oil companies seem to be taking a "wait and see" approach before committing resources to ramping up oil production in the state. But the rest of the rest of the report is not as positive in most areas. Seven months into Fiscal Year 2017, state sales and use tax collections are down by 14.1 percent, or $58.7 million.
As has been the pattern for the past several years in Wyoming, the big energy producing counties are taking the biggest hit, with Campbell County sales tax collections down by a whopping $20.2 million compared to the same time in FY 2016. Natrona County is down by $6.9 million and Sublette County is showing a $6.8 million drop.
Even Laramie County, which is not considered a leading energy producing county in the state, is seeing a 7 percent drop in sales and use tax collections year-over-year.
Visit Cheyenne President Darren Rudloff recently said the energy slump is hurting hotel occupancy rates in the county because energy industry executives and representatives are not traveling as much due to budget cutbacks.
Rudloff says that was noticeable during the recent legislative session when hotel occupancy rates in the city were well below usual.
He says that during the summer months, and especially during Cheyenne Frontier Days, tourists take up most of the lodging in Cheyenne. But during the winter months, and especially during the legislative session, business travelers make up the majority of hotel occupants. This year, those numbers were down significantly.
Robinson says besides an upward trend in oil prices, the other good news for the state economy is that it doesn't seem to be getting any worse over the last few months.
He says that shows "the worst is over," even if the state economy isn't growing right now.