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More Bad News For Wyoming’s Economy

David McNew, Getty Images

While a new report on the state economy contains a few glimmers of hope, it looks like low energy prices are continuing to take their toll on Wyoming.

The September Wyoming Insight report shows sales and use tax collections, generally considered one of the best barometers of how the economy is doing, are down by 13.7% compared to the same time last year.

Only seven of the state’s 23 counties are showing an increase for fiscal year 2016, which started July 1, compared to FY 2015. Not surprisingly, the two largest declines in sales tax collections occurred in two of the state’s biggest energy producing counties, Campbell and Natrona counties. Sales tax collections were down by a whopping  $6.4 million and $4.5 million respectively in those two counties for the first two months of the fiscal year.

Another cause for concern is an industry by industry comparison of sales tax collections for the new fiscal year, which shows only two out of twelve sectors–transportation and leisure/hospitality–showed an increase in sales tax collections.

There was some good news in the September report, however. Crude oil prices staged a very modest rally, going from an average of $42.86 per barrel in August to $45.60 per barrel in September. But even the higher average price was still  $47.62 per barrel lower than the average crude oil price in August 2014.

In spite of all the bad news, Wyoming actually gained 400 payroll jobs in August 2015 compared to August 2014.

But the bad news is that the typically lower paying leisure and hospitality industry added 1,800 jobs over the period, with all other sectors of the economy losing a net total of 1,400 jobs.

State Economist Jim Robinson says there is no reason to expect many changes over the next 3 to 4 months unless energy prices take an unexpected jump.

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