CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming's population contracted by about 1,200 people last year, with more than half of the state's counties experiencing losses, new U.S. Census figures show.
The state's population has fallen for three consecutive years following an energy bust that hit the coal, oil and natural gas industries. In the aftermath, workers began leaving Wyoming in search of jobs elsewhere.
"People tend to move to areas where jobs are available," Amy Bittner, a senior economist for the state, said in a statement. "Conversely, people may leave areas where employment opportunities become limited."
Still, there were positive signs in the numbers, according to a report from the state's Economic Analysis Division, which noted the state's labor force had finally stabilized and its unemployment rate was below 4 percent.
"Wyoming's current labor market environment is definitely providing opportunities and encouragement for people who are looking for jobs within the state," Bittner said in a statement.
The most recent population drops, for a 12-month period that ended in July, hit the hardest in Hot Springs (2.8 percent decrease), Washakie (1.9 percent decrease) and Carbon (1.8 decrease) counties, the figures show.
Natrona County's one-year population declined by 441 residents, or 0.6 percent.
Lincoln County experienced the largest one-year increase, with its population rising by 0.9 percent.
While Wyoming's population has declined over the past three years, it's still grown over the past decade by 2.5 percent, or about 14,000 people, the Census figures show. During that time, Teton (8.4 percent), Laramie (7.7 percent) and Lincoln (7.3 percent) counties experienced the largest increases.