By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s mining industry lost more than one-quarter of its jobs in the first quarter of this year compared to 2020, according to a state report.
Although the report from the state Economic Analysis Division showed the state overall posted modest gains in the numbers that point to its economic condition, some significant losses were seen in some areas, including mining employment and taxable sales.
The division’s quarterly report said Wyoming’s unemployment rate continued to decline slightly in the first quarter of the year from 2020, falling to 5.2% after peaking at a little more than 7% in the second quarter of 2020.
However, the state lost 15,730 jobs during the year, the report said, with the largest losses, 5,070, occurring in the state’s mining industry — a decline in employment of almost 26% in the industry.
“Payroll job declines occurred in nearly all industrial sectors, led by the mining (industry),” the report said. “This pivotal industry lost about 5,070 jobs, or 25.7% of its employees in a year-over-year comparison, and it showed little improvement in the quarter due to the continuation of depressed oil and natural gas activities.”
The construction industry lost 2,770 jobs during the year, while government jobs were reduced by about 2,600, the report said.
The only two sectors of the economy posting gains in employment were the retail trade and professional and business service sectors, posting job gains of 500 and 70, respectively.
However, personal income during the year grew by the highest level seen in almost 13 years, the report said, increasing by 11.4% from the first quarter of 2020.
Much of the growth, the report said, could be traced to government stimulus payments.
“Total earnings in the state shrank 2% annually in the quarter, while transfer receipts (income from government programs) increased by 89.3%, attributed to the new rounds of government pandemic relief payments from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act,” the report said.
Despite the growth in personal income, taxable sales around the state declined by 4.9% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, led by a drop of more than 50% in purchases made by the mining industry, the report said.
“The mining industry contracted substantially, 56.2%, due to declining sales of equipment, supplies and services from energy exploration and production activity,” it said. “This was one of the largest year-over-year drops in Wyoming’s history.”
At the same time, sales in the retail trade sector grew by 10.7%.
“Consumer spending in retail stores such as furniture and home furnishings, liquor and sporting goods also demonstrated strong growth,” the report said.