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Friday, February 17, 2017

Wyoming Private Jobs Worst of All States

Sorry to keep harping on this depressing news, but so long as there is even a remote chance that our state legislators will pass a bill this session that raises taxes, or opens the door for higher taxes, I have to keep pointing out what a thoroughly bad idea that would be.

This past week I have reported on the employment trend in the private sector of the Wyoming economy. The numbers did not present a very optimistic picture of our state; the only silver lining is that the minerals industry seems to be stabilizing at a substantially lower level of operations and employment. However, with six out of ten lost private-sector jobs, the big question is to what extent the stabilization in minerals jobs is going to be outweighed by continued losses elsewhere.

Another way to look at the employment situation in Wyoming is to compare our state nationally.
There is not much more good news to find there, either. Looking only at 2016, our state has the worst or second-worst private sector jobs record of all the 50 states (and the District of Columbia):
  • In the first quarter of 2016, private-sector employment in Wyoming declined by 4.6 percent compared to the same quarter a year earlier, surpassed only by North Dakota (-6.1 percent) but worse than West Virginia (third worst at -1.5 percent) with oil-dependent Alaska actually adding a sliver of jobs (0.1 percent);
  • In the second quarter, Wyoming again came in second to last (-4.5 percent) with West Virginia third from the bottom (-0.8 percent) and North Dakota again ranking last (-5 percent);
  • In the third quarter, our state fell to dead-last position, losing 3.9 percent of its private-sector jobs; North Dakota fared marginally better at -3.2 percent, with Alaska third last at -0.5 percent;
  • In the fourth quarter Wyoming was the only state with more than two percent job loss (-3.8) with North Dakota tapering off (-1.9) and Alaska actually increasing its job loss (-1.7).
In the first, second and third quarters, six states lost jobs, while in the fourth quarter seven states fell into that category. In other words, the overall national trend is one of adding private-sector jobs, which yet again raises the big question for the tax-hikers in our legislature: what happens to the Wyoming economy if we would use tax increases to close even part of our budget deficit? 

Put differently: if Utah can increase private-sector employment by 3.4-3.7 percent per year; if Colorado manages to create new jobs at 2.5-3 percent annually; if South Dakota can offer new jobs at a rate of 1.3-2.6 percent per year; how likely is it that our kids will choose to stay in Wyoming if all we have to look forward to is higher taxes?

I have a lot more state-comparison data to report, with GDP numbers coming up. For now, here is a table over private sector job growth (or decline) for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia (sorted alphabetically):

Year-to-year changes in private-sector employment; raw data from Bureau of Labor Statistics
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Alabama 1.6% 1.4% 1.0% 1.0%
Alaska 0.1% -0.6% -0.5% -1.7%
Arizona 3.8% 3.6% 3.0% 1.7%
Arkansas 2.8% 2.4% 1.7% 0.8%
California 3.0% 3.1% 2.3% 2.2%
Colorado 3.0% 2.7% 2.9% 2.5%
Connecticut 1.0% 0.9% 1.1% 0.2%
D.C. 1.6% 1.1% 1.5% 1.9%
Delaware 3.2% 3.7% 3.0% 1.5%
Florida 3.5% 3.6% 3.5% 3.4%
Georgia 3.5% 3.4% 2.8% 2.4%
Hawaii 2.8% 2.8% 3.0% 2.4%
Idaho 3.9% 3.5% 3.3% 2.6%
Illinois 1.3% 0.8% 0.9% 0.6%
Indiana 1.6% 1.5% 1.4% 1.1%
Iowa 1.4% 1.3% 1.8% 0.9%
Kansas -0.1% 0.0% -0.2% -0.6%
Kentucky 2.4% 2.1% 1.6% 1.0%
Louisiana -1.0% -0.7% -0.6% -0.2%
Maine 1.5% 0.3% 1.0% 0.1%
Maryland 2.4% 2.5% 2.1% 1.1%
Massachusetts 1.9% 1.9% 2.4% 2.1%
Michigan 2.4% 2.4% 2.4% 2.1%
Minnesota 1.6% 1.2% 1.7% 1.4%
Mississippi 1.7% 0.8% 0.5% -0.6%
Missouri 1.3% 1.1% 1.1% 2.3%
Montana 0.5% 0.8% 0.6% 1.2%
Nebraska 1.6% 1.4% 1.0% 0.8%
Nevada 2.6% 2.6% 3.0% 2.6%
New Hampshire 2.2% 2.2% 2.5% 2.7%
New Jersey 2.2% 1.7% 1.9% 0.6%
New Mexico 0.0% 0.8% 0.4% 0.1%
New York 1.6% 1.3% 1.5% 1.3%
North Carolina 2.7% 2.3% 2.2% 2.1%
North Dakota -6.1% -5.0% -3.2% -1.9%
Ohio 1.8% 1.5% 1.4% 0.8%
Oklahoma -0.6% -0.3% -0.8% -0.7%
Oregon 3.7% 3.6% 3.5% 3.3%
Pennsylvania 1.1% 1.1% 1.1% 0.7%
Rhode Island 1.9% 0.8% 1.3% 1.2%
South Carolina 3.0% 2.8% 2.6% 2.3%
South Dakota 1.3% 1.6% 2.6% 2.2%
Tennessee 3.8% 2.9% 2.5% 2.1%
Texas 1.5% 1.5% 1.5% 1.8%
Utah 3.6% 3.7% 3.4% 3.4%
Vermont 1.8% 1.5% 1.6% 0.2%
Virginia 3.1% 2.6% 2.0% 1.4%
Washington 3.4% 3.4% 3.3% 3.2%
West Virginia -1.5% -0.8% 0.0% 0.1%
Wisconsin 1.6% 1.6% 1.8% 1.0%
Wyoming -4.6% -4.5% -3.9% -3.8%

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