CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s unemployment rate has been dropping over the last two years, but the state still hasn’t replaced all the jobs it lost during the recession, according to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
While the state jobless rate has fallen to 4.8 percent, compared with the 7.5 percent national rate, actual job growth has been weak, senior economist David Bullard said Tuesday.
The state remains about 9,000 jobs short of employment levels reached before 2009, when the recession hit Wyoming the hardest, Bullard said.
At the end of 2008, there were about 288,000 jobs in Wyoming, compared with about 278,900 at the end of 2012.
The state’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.5 percent in late 2009 and early 2010.
“We lost jobs in most sectors, a couple of exceptions are government and health care and social assistance,” Bullard said. “But every other sector I believe lost jobs in the recession.”
During recovery, the construction industry has lagged the most in replacing lost jobs — particularly those involving road, pipeline and power plant work, he said.
The Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead this past winter approved a 10-cent increase in the state fuels tax to pay for more road projects.
The higher tax, which takes effect July 1, will raise about $70 million a year, with about two-thirds going to the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the rest going to cities and counties.
Bullard said increasing the road work should help improve construction employment numbers in the state.
And many of the new jobs that have been created since 2008 are showing up in different areas of the state, he said.
“In some ways there’s been a shift within (the) state from that southwest corner to more central Wyoming,” Bullard said.
Uinta, Sweetwater, Sublette and Lincoln all lost at least 500 jobs between the end of 2008 and the end of 2012, whereas Natrona and Converse counties in central Wyoming have seen a net increase in jobs over the same period, he said.
Still, Bullard said the Great Recession has not been as severe on Wyoming as the energy bust in the 1980s.
The worst over-the-year job losses in Wyoming were 6.4 percent during the latest recession, while in the 1980s it was 11.6 percent, he said.