Jobless rate much better in county, but fewer at work

Oct 8, 2017 From staff reports

Fremont County's unemployment rate improved significantly during the summer compared to a year ago, but other data don't paint such a good picture of the local job market.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services calculated Fremont County's unemployment rate for August at 4.7 percent. That's a big improvement over the 6.3 percent from August 2016. July's rate was 5.4 percent.

State economists note that a modest improvement is typical from July to August. The August data is the newest available.

Smaller work force

The year-to-year improvement appeared to develop not due to an improvement in the job market but, rather, sizable downturn in the county's work force.

The August labor pool stood at 19,461, down just one from the month before but 650 fewer than the 2016 count, when there were 20,111 available workers.

That shrinkage carried over into two related categories charted monthly by the state. Total em-ployment grew from July to August as it typically does due to increased construction, hospitality and agriculture employment, some of it likely creditable to add-on hiring in August tied to visitation for the total solar eclipse.

August had 18,541 people on the job locally, 123 more than July's figure.

Year-to-year job loss

But year to year, total employment was down by nearly 300 jobs. In August 2016, 18,839 workers had jobs. By the same time this year, the 18,541 total was 298 fewer.

Total unemployment shrank considerably in August, again apparently tied to the reduction in the work force rather than an increase in job availability. The jobless count was 920, compared to 1,042 in July and 352 fewer than August 2016.

Even at a reduced count of 19,461, Fremont County still had the fifth-largest work force among Wyoming's 23 counties, passing Albany County (Laramie) as University of Wyoming students cleared out for the summer.

That gap will narrow when fall numbers are calculated. Fremont trails fourth-place Sweetwater County (Rock Springs) by more than 2,100.

Most counties in the state have work forces of fewer than 10,000. Laramie County (Cheyenne) now has far surpassed second-place Natrona County (Casper) as the energy economy recession affects Casper more than Cheyenne, the state capital.

Laramie County's work force approached 49,000 in July before falling back to 48,167 in August in an expected season decline.

Natrona County's total work force was 38,878, down almost 2,000 from a year ago.

Laramie County has lost about 400 workers since last year.

Niobrara County (Lusk) retains its customary place with the smallest labor pool, just 1,397, down 59 over the year.

Fremont County's 4.7 percent rates was the highest in Wyoming for August, followed by Natrona County's 4.5 percent and Campbell County (Gillette) at 4.2 percent.

At the peak of summer tourist season, Teton County (Jackson) showed a jobless rate in August of just 1.6 percent. Niobrara County was next-best at 2.4 percent, with Crook County (Sundance) at 2.6 percent. The two counties combined have a labor force of just 5,269.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was an even 4 percent for August, unchanged from July and down from 5.2 percent a year earlier.

The state's work force was down by 7,900 for the year, and the job count was 3,841 fewer.

The national unemployment rate for August was 4.4, seasonally adjusted.

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