PINEDALE – Sublette County has long been one of the most expensive places to live in Wyoming. Stories in the Roundup going back more than a decade anoint the county, and often Pinedale specifically, as falling just behind Jackson in the cost of living.
When the Economic Analysis Division (EAD) of the state’s Department of Administration and Information released the Wyoming Cost of Living Index (WCLI) for the second quarter of this year, Sublette County retained its spot as No. 2 on the list with an overall cost of living at 114 percent of the average for the state. Teton County remains at the top at 132 percent of the average cost of living in Wyoming.
The WCLI is calculated twice a year for all 23 counties along with inflation rates for regions. Statewide, inflation was at annual rate of 2.4 percent for the second quarter of 2012, almost 50 percent more than the national consumer price index (CPI), which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measured at an annual rate of 1.7 percent in June.
Like the CPI, the Wyoming inflation rate is measured by how much it theoretically costs to buy a “standard basket of selected consumer items.” The cost is compared with the price of the same goods a year ago. In Sublette County, price data were gathered in Pinedale.
In the southwest region of the state, which includes Sublette County, as well as Sweetwater, Lincoln and Uinta counties, the inflation rate was 2.8 percent from the second quarter of 2011 through the second quarter of 2012. This is up from the 4.1 percent rate measured in the fourth quarter of 2011, indicating prices are still rising but the rate has slowed.
The WCLI measures the local costs of housing, medical, food, apparel, recreation and personal care and transportation. In all six categories, Sublette County is more expensive than the state average, particularly in housing, apparel, medical and recreation, all of which are 10 percent or more than the average – apparel is more than 25 percent above the state average. Housing and apparel are traditionally the most expensive sectors in the county, with housing carrying the largest weight in determining the overall cost of living for an area.
The cost of housing in Sublette County is declining, according to the EAD, which measured a two-bedroom unfurnished apartment at $900 a month, not including utilities, down 6.4 percent from the second quarter of 2011. It’s down 0.8 percent from the end of 2010, when the price was $908 a month. The cost of renting a house is also down. The EAD estimated a two- to three-bedroom house costs $1,198, 9.4 percent less than what it cost at the end of 2010 and down 13.4 percent from what it was at the end of 2011.
Statewide, housing prices are up over a year ago.
The WCLI is used to determine wages in many sectors, including education, which was involved in a heated debate this past winter over possible changes to cost of living adjustments. After much objection to a proposed hedonic wage scale, the WCLI was left as the dominant determinant.
The next WCLI calculation is due out after the fourth quarter, sometime in the beginning of 2013.