PINEDALE – For the first time in months, the recent county unemployment numbers, released this week by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, bucked the trend of past years and rose from February to March. The March rate for Sublette County rose from 3.2 percent to 3.5 percent. Statewide, however, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 5.4 percent to 5.3 percent, continuing its downward trend.
The change in county numbers is primarily attributed to a reduction of jobs. The labor force rose by four people, but the number of employed dropped from 7,994 to 7,977, a decline of 17. Combined with four extra people in the workforce, Sublette County saw a bump of 21 additional people without jobs.
While small in absolute numbers, in a county with a small population, a change of as little as 21 unemployed can affect percentages. A similar change in Sweetwater County, for example, wouldn’t register in the unemployment rates.
Of the 23 Wyoming counties, eight experienced a drop in unemployment. Fifteen either remained steady or increased. March, the end of the winter tourism season, sees a corresponding reduction of activity in areas such as Teton County, which is bustling with activity during the ski season. Teton County unemployment rates historically see a two- to three-month bump before the summer season starts in earnest, dropping the number of unemployed.
Despite the slight rise, Sublette County remains the county with the lowest unemployment rate in a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. The national unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 to 8.2 percent, seasonally adjusted.
In the first months as Wyoming emerged from the recession, counties saw their unemployment rates drop significantly. The decline in the successive months has been less sharp, but relatively consistent and adhering to seasonal trends. March was the first month of many in which the Sublette County numbers did not conform to what the historical trend might have predicted.
Historically, employment in the county dips during the winter months and starts to ramp back up in the spring and into summer. Industry development in the gas fields, construction and tourism all contribute greatly to employment and the economy in the area. And all of those sectors generally do better in the warmer months.
Nationwide, slower growth in March was attributed to larger than normal employment growth in January and February, due to the mild winter. The traditional bump seen in spring was spread out over the first three months of the year. Wyoming and Sublette County also experienced a relatively mild winter, and the unexpected lull in employment could be caused by the similarly warmer weather. For the complete article see the 04-27-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-27-2012 paper.