Great news! We now have county-level employment and earnings data for the third quarter of 2016, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Aren't you excited?
While statewide employment data is available all the way through the first quarter of this year, county-level data tends to lag about six months behind. Its value is therefore more long-term than short-term, but it is nevertheless important to analyze it, for two reasons. First of all, it gives us a good idea of what trends in the statewide economy are actually statewide, and which ones are only local but strong enough to influence statewide data.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, county-level data on jobs and earnings will help us a great deal in what policies we should, and should not, pursue locally. A county with strong private-sector jobs growth does not need the same kind of attention with regard to tax-and-spending reforms as counties where jobs are disappearing on a regular basis. A county with a strong economy can afford to work with reforms on a long-term basis, while a county with a weak economy needs do focus its fiscal and regulatory policy powers on making an immediate difference.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the most recent county-level employment data (and return to earnings in the near future). We start with Table 1, which shows the year-over-year change in total private sector employment by county (there are no reliable numbers for Niobrara):
|Q3 2016, Private|
In the third quarter last year, 18 of 22 counties with good data ended up losing private-sector jobs.
Since minerals jobs are important to our state, Table 2 reports year-over-year changes in employment in that industry:
|Q3 2016, Minerals|
Of the 21 counties for which there is reliable data (Niobrara and Carbon inexplicably fall outside of that category), 17 lost minerals jobs.
To once again drive home the point I have made countless times already, here are the same numbers from the non-minerals private industry, demonstrating that ours is not "only" a crisis in the minerals industry:
For an overview, let us look at the changes in these three categories of jobs alphabetically by county:
Again, these are all numbers for the third quarter of 2016, over the same quarter a year earlier. Let us therefore zoom out a little bit and look at the overall trends for the quarters of 2016 for which we have data. Here are employment numbers for the entire private sector and for minerals, county by county, quarter by quarter for 2016:
|2016||Total private employment||Minerals employment|
Let us take another step back and look at the longer employment trends by county. Of the 22 counties reporting private-sector data (again, where are you, Niobrara?) a total of 18 exhibit some sort of sustained job loss trend.
The trend is weakest in Carbon, Crook, Goshen, Platte and Weston counties where the private sector has been losing jobs for three quarters in a row. In Carbon and Crook, the situation is worse, with a jobs decline for five of the seven latest quarters. In Goshen, jobs have been declining for only two consecutive months, but the overall trend is three out of the seven latest quarters (i.e., calendar year 2015 and Q1-A3 for 2016).
In the next category we have counties with 4-7 consecutive quarters of job losses: Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Fremont, Johnson, Laramie, Natrona, Park, Sheridan, Uinta and Washakie. This group clearly shows that this jobs crisis is not just about minerals. Their dependency on minerals jobs ranges from 2.5 percent of all private jobs in Laramie to 28 percent in Campbell and Converse.
The third group represents the "disaster zone" of the state: Sublette, with 18 consecutive months of private job losses and Sweetwater with 14. In Sublette, minerals jobs represented 43 percent of all private jobs in 2011; now that share is down to 28 percent. Sweetwater took a drop from 32 to 24 percent.
Hot Springs seems to be turning a corner: after losing private jobs for ten quarters they saw a modest uptick in the third quarter of 201. More on that later.
For now, let us conclude by noting that these employment numbers verify that the crisis in our state's economy reaches well beyond minerals.
I am sure you are all eagerly waiting to hear more about the earnings numbers associated with these employment figures. I, too, am excited about those numbers. Alas, check back for part 2 of this review of Wyoming employment.