By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s economy continued its rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020, with slight gains seen in employment, personal income and the housing market.
However, the gains in most of those areas remained below what was seen prior to 2020, according to the state Department of Administration and Information.
“Wyoming’s economy continued to rebound in the fourth quarter, similar to the U.S. average,” the department said in its regular economic summary for the fourth quarter of last year.
The report said while Wyoming’s unemployment rate improved in the last quarter of the year to 5.3%, the number of jobs dropped from the last quarter of 2019, with 17,730 jobs being lost, a decline in employment figures of 6.1%.
Similarly, personal income grew in the last quarter of 2020, but very slowly, the report said.
“Wyoming’s total personal income grew 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020 from the previous year, the slowest growth since the first quarter of 2017,” the report said.
At the same time, the personal income nationally increased by an average of 4%, the report said.
Home prices also increased during the year by 8.4%, the report said, compared to a national average of 10.8%.
More homes were also built in the last quarter of 2020 over 2019, with the number of permits issued increasing by 21.5% over last year.
However, the report predicted a cooling in the housing market in the near future because of rising prices and mortgage rates.
“Indeed, there are signs that show some softness in (the) housing market such as new home sales and mortgage applications,” it said.
Tourism also increased significantly in the last quarter of the year over 2019, the report said, with Yellowstone National Park reporting a 94.2% increase in visitation and Grand Teton National Park’s visitation growing by 67.1%.
While the added visits helped generate economic activity in some areas, they did not do a lot to bring the full state’s tourism industry out of the slump it saw in 2020, the report said.
“Lodging sales for the fourth quarter were 35.4% higher than a year ago in Teton County, but were down 3.2% for the state as a whole,” it said.
Taxable sales also declined statewide by about 9.3% from the last quarter of 2019, the report said, but most of the decline could be traced to a lack of purchases by the mining industry.
“The mining industry (including oil and gas extraction) contracted substantially, at -63.1%, due to declining sales of equipment, supplies and services from energy exploration and production activity,” the report said. “This was one of the largest year-over-year drops in Wyoming’s history.”
Sales by the state’s retail trade industry grew by 2.7% over last year and the wholesale trade industry saw growth of 17.6% during the year, the report said, largely because of increased activity in the state’s wind energy industry.