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Sheridan, Cody Mayors Say Population Increases Will Have Major Impact On Their Communities

in News/Economy
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While an increase in a city’s population of 450 to 650 might not seem very large, the mayors of Cody and Sheridan are saying the boosts in populations measured in one year could have a major impact.

Between the summers of 2020 and 2021, Park and Sheridan counties had two of the highest increases in population recorded in the state. Sheridan County’s population grew by 650, while Park’s increased by 452.

Cody Mayor Matt Hall and Sheridan Mayor Rich Bridger both said while they expected the U.S. Census to record some growth in the one-year period, neither expected the growth of 1.5% and 2.1%, respectively, reported recently.

Some cities might never notice that number of people moving into the area within a one-year period. But for the Sheridan and Cody, those few hundred new residents can make a big impact on an area, the mayors said.

“Our census numbers for 2020 brought our population up from around 9,500 to a little over 10,000, but I think it’s higher than that,” Hall told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “There are a lot of other communities within the Bighorn Basin that show we’ve had more growth than the census numbers indicated.”

Hall said that some of the impacts seen on the city in the last two years has been longer lines at shops during the tourist “off season” and a bit of a housing strain, but also an economic uptick during the off season.

Hall thinks the population number in Cody actually ranges somewhere from 10,500 to 11,000 residents.

He also believes that many of the new residents are coming from outside the state, from places such as California, Colorado and Texas.

“We have year-round commercial air service, relatively decent shopping amenities, cultural things like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the rodeo,” Hall said. “How long did it take people to realize how great these places are? And that’s not just Cody, it’s all of the places in Wyoming that have access to the mountains.”

Sheridan’s Bridger told Cowboy State Daily that there has been a real boom in housing over the last two years, which is partially caused by the amount of people moving into the area.

This has been the biggest downside for people moving into Sheridan, he said, as many houses are being built, but are still unaffordable to much of the local workforce.

“Our economy is doing well. Our sales tax numbers have been going up every month,” he said. “But the downside is you have to accommodate for that.”

Bridger also believed that most of the new residents have moved to Sheridan from out-of-state. He thought the pandemic was also one of the biggest reasons people started moving to Wyoming.

“We have a fairly diversified economy in Sheridan,” he said. “It’s also just a beautiful place. We’re close to the Bighorn Mountains. There’s a lot of hunting and fishing opportunities. We have a great downtown with a lot of shopping. Aesthetically, it’s just a beautiful place to live.”

Lincoln County saw the largest population gain in the state during the year, 2.4% or 479 residents.

Afton Mayor J.C. Inskeep and Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comment.

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Wyo Population Grows Three Times National Rate; Economist Credits It To Covid Escape

in News/wyoming economy
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Wyoming’s population grew at three times the national rate between 2020 and 2021, the overall increase in numbers will have a minimal effect on the state, according to an economist.

Wyoming’s total resident population grew by 1,536 people, 0.3%, between July 2020 and July 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to the national growth rate of 0.1%.

Wyoming’s population in July 2021 was 578,803, according to the Census Bureau.

Wyoming economist and state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday while he is glad to see an uptick in residents, he does not think it will make much of a difference to the state and local economies.

“I think this was a COVID-driven thing and people ran away from crowded areas,” Case said. “Will this trend continue? COVID isn’t really a thing anymore, but the trend toward remote work might help a little bit.”

Case said it was not really fair to call the increase a “trend,” since it only took place over a one-year period.

Case pointed out that while many people moving to Wyoming can work remotely, the state has not seen any large companies moving in that could offer new jobs.

“It’s not like you’re plucking up a factory out of L.A. and putting it here,” he said. “It’s individuals from that company who come here.”

While Case said he does not want to see the state decrease in population, the state’s current tax structure keeps Wyoming from fully capitalizing on its new residents.

Fifteen counties in Wyoming saw population increases during the 1-year period. Lincoln County saw the largest increase, with 2.4%, following by Sheridan at 2.1% and Crook and Johnson counties, both at 1.9%.

Laramie County, the largest in the state, grew by 0.2%, while Natrona County, the second-largest, saw a decline of 0.8%, or 674 residents.

However, Campbell and Sweetwater counties saw the biggest decreases, with populations falling by 1.5% and 1.3%, respectively.

Wenlin Liu, the state’s chief economist, said in his analysis of the Census figures that two factors contributed to the state’s population change: births and deaths and net migration, the difference between people moving into and out of an area.

During teh year, 1,368 more people moved into Wyoming than left the state, the report said, while the difference between births and deaths accounted for 171 more residents being counted. During the year, 6,213 people were born in Wyoming and 6,042 people died.

Liu said the migration of people into the state was caused in part by the economy.

“Employment opportunities have always been the driving factor for Wyoming’s migration trend, but the pandemic also played a significant role in the past a couple of years,” Liu said.  “Many people chose to relocate to less populated and lower cost areas during the pandemic, and the increased availability of remote work made this possible.”  

Liu also said that the dramatic decline in energy prices and the subsequent economic downturn in the mid-2010s forced many residents to leave the state. Therefore, the state experienced consecutive years of negative net migration with more people leaving the state than moving in between 2014 and 2019.  

However, the direction of net migration reversed in both 2020 and 2021.  

Over two-thirds of Wyoming counties showed positive net migration, led by Sheridan with 729 people, and followed by Park with 530 people and Lincoln with 447.  

On the other hand, large negative net migration occurred in Campbell, with a loss of 907 people, Natrona and Sweetwater, with a loss of 621, counties.  

“The COVID-19 virus hit energy producing and serving areas especially hard as demand plummeted, and the rebound of the industry has been painfully slow, particularly in Wyoming,” Liu said.   

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Wyoming Population Growth Attributed to People Escaping Cities Because of Covid

in News/wyoming economy
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

While Wyoming’s population grew by less than one-half of 1% in the last year, that growth was sufficient to rank the state among the top half of the nation for population increases.

Wyoming placed 22nd for the percentage of its population increase, 0.3%, or 1,536 people, between July 2020 and July 2021, according to U.S. Census figures quoted by the division.

Some of the growth could be attributed to the arrival of new residents leaving larger cities because of the COVID pandemic, according to an official with the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division.

“COVID-19 may have prompted more people to move to Wyoming than leave the state,” said Amy Bittner, principal economist with the division.

Population changes are the result of two things: the number of births compared to deaths (referred to as the natural increase) and people moving into or out of an area.

Wyoming’s births and deaths resulted in a net population increase of 171 over the year, while 1,368 people moved into the state during the same period, the division said.

“Wyoming’s natural population increase has slowed tremendously over the last couple of years,” Bittner said. “Wyoming is experiencing some of the same issues as the U.S. when it comes to natural population growth, declining birth rates and an increased aging population.”

The state’s growth was above the national average of 0.1%, or 392,665 people, marking the first time since 1937 America’s annual population growth fell below 1 million.

In addition to people looking for places to weather the pandemic, the state’s employment growth of 3.1% between July of 2020 and July 2021 may have contributed to its population gain.

“Employment opportunities drive migration into an area, which is typical true for Wyoming,” Bittner said.

The state with the highest percentage increase in population was Idaho at 2.9% or 53,151 people, followed by Utah at 1.7%, 56,291.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., saw their populations decline, the Census figures said. The largest decline was seen in Washington, D.C., at 2.9%, followed by New York at 1.6%.

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Census Report: Wyoming (Still) Least Populous State

in census/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Wyoming’s population increased by 2.3% over the last decade, it continues to be the least-populated state in the U.S., according to the latest census data.

Data released Monday from last fall’s census showed Wyoming had a population of 576,851. This made it the least-populated state in the nation, with California being the most populous, with 39.5 million residents.

Wyoming’s population increased by 13,225 from 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau data showed.

While this may not seem like a major increase, Wyoming was ranked 44th in the nation for the percentage of growth in its population. The lowest growth rate was seen in Connecticut at 0.9%, while three states — Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia — actually lost population.

Wyoming also has around 870 residents living overseas, which includes military and federal civilians.

The total U.S. population, not including Puerto Rico, for the 2020 census was 331.4 million.

Because representation in the U.S. House is based on a state’s population, some states saw a change in the number of their congressional seats as a result of the census. Colorado, Montana and three other states will each gain a seat and California, New York and five other states will lose one each. Wyoming will not see a change.

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau reported that Wyoming had one of the worst response rates for the survey, with only about 61.1% of Wyoming’s residents responded on their own to the bureau’s request for information. 

The remaining 38.8% of those counted were approached by Census Bureau workers during the count that extended through the mid-October last year.

The self-response rate puts Wyoming 13th from the bottom of a list of all the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had the lowest self-response rate at 35.8%, followed by Alaska at 54.7%.

Among the state’s counties, Laramie County residents did the best job of responding on their own to the Census Bureau’s requests, with 71.9% doing so, followed by Sheridan County at 68.3%.

Teton County had the lowest rate in the state at 39.5%, followed very closely by Sublette County at 39.6%.

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Overall Wyoming Population Grows After Three Years Of Decline

in News/Wyoming
Financial advisor Bryan Pedersen.
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming saw a slight increase of 0.2% in its population in 2019, a first after three straight years of decline.

The United States Census Bureau, in a release Thursday about July 1, 2019 population estimates, said Wyoming’s population grew by 1,158 people in the year ending July 1 to total 578,759.

As of July 2019, Cheyenne was still the state’s largest city, boasting a population of 64,235. Casper followed with a population of 57,931. Laramie was the third most-populated city in the state, with 32,711.

Casper barely beat out Cheyenne for the largest population change between July 2018 and July 2019, with the former adding 416 new residents and the latter only getting 400. This was the first increase in Casper’s population after years of decline.

Bar Nunn, in Natrona County, saw the fastest annual growth in one year, around 2.7% for a total of 2,812. The other cities that saw population increases included Sheridan, Jackson and Douglas.

Rock Springs, with a population of 22,653, saw the largest decline in population, losing 274 residents over the 12-month period. Thermopolis, Wheatland and Green River also saw population declines.

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2020 Census prep begins in Wyoming – What it means to you

in Government spending/News
Wyoming Prepares for 2020 Census
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By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon signed a proclamation June 25 that sets in motion the state’s preparations for the 2020 U.S. Census – including a soon-to-be-live website and committees strategizing participation in hard-to-reach communities. 

The 2020 Census may be especially important to Wyoming because of recent population declines. 

Driven by the downturn in coal, oil and natural gas, Wyoming’s population is estimated to have decreased in each of the past three years: from 585,668 in 2015 to 577,737 in 2018.

 “In neighboring states, their economies are strong, so many of our younger workers left,” said Wenlin Liu, interim administrator and chief economist at the Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis. 

Nevertheless, Wyoming’s 2020 population is expected to be higher than 2010’s 563,626.

The results of the census will affect Wyoming in several ways, including:

The census results represent money for the state. 

Billions of dollars flow into Wyoming based on data about population, income and other demographics. An accurate count may be especially important as state lawmakers discuss potential new taxes for additional revenue. An increase in federal money could offset the need for new taxes. 

College Pell Grants, U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperative extension service money, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Planning and Construction program and the Child Health Insurance Program are among dozens of programs in which federal dollars follow Census results

In the years between each census, the Census Bureau makes annual demographic estimates, which agencies also use to distribute funds, said Liu, who is involved in 2020 Census planning with the governor’s office. 

“All of these programs are based on the benchmark of the decennial census,” he said.

The state will rely on the 2020 Census to apportion legislative districts. 

The Wyoming House has 60 seats. Higher population areas tend to have more districts. A county with four House districts, for instance, could gain or lose seats compared to growth in other counties, Liu said. 

School districts and local governments need census data to plan. 

The census, which in 2020 can be completed online, asks for the ages of everyone in the household. That can help a school district determine where it may need a new high school in five years, for instance. 

Census results determine the formula the Legislature uses to send money to local governments for the following decade, Liu said.

“For Wyoming, sales tax distribution between county governments and cities within the counties is based on the census,” he said. 

The census informs business decisions.

Chambers of commerce and business groups use census data to market an area to companies. 

“If the area’s population is increasing, businesses are always expanding,” Liu said.

Conversely, when an area’s population is in decline, businesses think hard about expansion, he said. 

The census will have big impact on a small state.  

Wyoming is the country’s lowest population state. Citizenship question aside, that likely will not change after the 2020 Census results come in. Under-counting the number of people who live in Wyoming proportionally hurts the state more than say, Texas, which can afford to undercount a few residents and not be slammed by a dramatic decrease in federal funds, for instance. 

“Wyoming has the smallest population in the country,’ Liu said. “We do want to count everyone.”

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