Teton County still costliest

Teton County still costliest

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Associated Press

CHEYENNE (AP) - At one time, Jackson Hole was not the priciest place to live in Wyoming. But for more and more residents, it's getting harder to remember those days.

At the end of 1985, mining-rich Gillette held the "most costly" title in a crowded field, but Jackson took over the top spot in the second quarter of 1986 and hasn't looked back.

"It puts a big squeeze on our working force who have to live out of the area in order to survive," rural Jackson resident Patty McDonald said Monday. "At some point it's going to catch up to us because these other communities will be viable by themselves and their people won't have to go elsewhere for employment."

According to the latest survey, taken July 7-9 by the state Economic Analysis Division, Teton County was 38 percent above the statewide average for day-to-day living expenses.

Sublette County, abundant in natural gas, was second, at 11 percent above the norm, followed by Campbell (7 percent), Sheridan (6 percent) and Laramie (4 percent).

The high costs eliminate many quality people from taking jobs and living in Jackson Hole, said McDonald, a real estate lender.

"Once they look around at housing prices, they realize it's something they can't afford to do," she said.

Teton County's housing costs are 70 percent above the statewide average, while apparel costs are 23 percent higher, trumped only by Johnson (33 percent higher) and Sublette (28 percent).

Medical costs are 10 percent higher in the Jackson area, again the most expensive in the state.

Several counties in northeast Wyoming, particularly Campbell and Sheridan, continue to feel the effects of mining activity, particularly coalbed methane.

"Because these counties have remained among the leaders in the comparative index ranking for a number of years, this helps confirm that the current strength in the mining industry is sustainable and most likely will not change anytime soon," said Justin Ballard, a senior economist with the Economic Analysis Division.

On the low-cost end are rural areas.

Goshen and Weston counties were 14 percent below average, followed by south Lincoln and Niobrara (12 percent below), and Washakie, Big Horn and Crook (11 percent).

"Because these counties have not recently experienced significant population increases, housing rental rates have remained relatively low," Ballard said. "This is a major reason why most of the rural counties in the state have remained the least expensive locations to live."

For purposes of the survey, Lincoln County is divided into north and south due to the wide differences between the two ends of the county.

Another finding: Inflation statewide was 4.9 percent over the past year, the highest rate since the fourth quarter of 1990.

Price increases for food, housing, medical and transportation were the main drivers, Ballard said. The housing inflation rate is being pressured by higher rental costs and natural gas bills.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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