Thursday, November 16, 2017

County by County Jobs Update, Part 2

On Tuesday, I reported the latest county-by-county jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I noted that there has finally been a change for the better in the balance between private and government jobs: the state, our counties, cities, towns and school districts have begun adjusting their workforce - slowly, though - to the serious decline in private-sector employment. 

Let us not draw too much of a conclusion from this: the statists still treat us taxpayers like we were all self-replenishable ATM machines. As an example, here is an almost comical summary of what I found, sweeping the local media this morning - and this is just out of one newspaper: the proposal to raise property taxes (which I have written about before); the agony among cities and counties over not being able to raise taxes as much as they would like to; the cigarette tax increase; the tourist tax (that representatives of the tourism industry begged for at the Revenue Committee meeting...) the Millionaire tax (which, as I explained recently, is a bad idea); and the substitute-tax policy of taking money from investments to cover current spending (a particularly bad idea if applied more broadly).

A big thank you to the Casper Star Tribune for their effort at collecting all tax-hike stories. It makes it easier for the paper's readers to keep track of the statist policies that the newspaper itself so eagerly supports.

While we are at it, let us also thank the Tribune for its slip of the tongue, where it admits what the legislative leadership is so reluctant to say out loud: the budget deficit is $770 million. This biennial number is another see-I-told-you-so moment for yours truly. As I have explained on numerous occasions, the stabilization of the Wyoming economy at a "new normal" has delayed the point where we exceed $400 million per year, but it has not prevented that from happening. We will get there. 

The bottom line, here, is that we taxpayers and voters cannot take our eyes off what our elected officials are up to. Today's installment on county economic data reaffirms this point, and goes well with the review above of the relentless ambition to raise our taxes.

There is a trend, namely, of growing dependency on government in our state, a trend that shows how government dependency is slowly penetrating family finances. In their local income data for 2016, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that for Wyoming, the dependency on personal current transfers has grown in the past couple of years: in 2012, 12 percent of our personal income in the state came from transfers - government hand-outs or entitlements, however you want to characterize it - while in 2016 that share had gone up to 13.3 percent. This does not sound like much, but it means that we took $643 million more in tax-paid entitlements last year than we did in 2012. 

Per capita, the increase is 16 percent, or almost exactly $1,000 per year. 

I have reported before on the rising dependency on entitlements, though only at the state level; this pack of raw data from the BEA takes these numbers down to the county level. It is interesting to note that since 2012, the current-price dollar value of entitlements, per capita, has increased by more than ten percent in every county - and in seven counties by more than 20 percent:

Table 1

Change in per-capita dependency
2012 to 2016
Sublette 31.6%
Campbell 29.3%
Sweetwater 23.1%
Johnson 22.9%
Converse 22.7%
Uinta 21.1%
Weston 20.1%
Hot Springs 16.9%
Park 16.7%
Sheridan 16.0%
Big Horn 15.7%
Natrona 15.7%
Platte 15.1%
Washakie 15.0%
Crook 14.8%
Lincoln 14.8%
Fremont 14.2%
Carbon 13.8%
Goshen 13.6%
Teton 12.6%
Niobrara 11.4%
Laramie 11.2%
Albany 6.5%
Raw data source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

These are, again, numbers on how much more, in current-price dollars, we took per capita as entitlements in 2016 compared to 2012. If we look at entitlements as share of personal income, the situation is a bit more complex, but the dependency rate has increased in every county except Hot Springs:

Table 2

Entitlements as share of total personal income earned, by county
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Albany, WY 14.1% 14.3% 14.1% 14.4% 14.4%
Big Horn, WY 19.5% 20.0% 20.4% 21.3% 22.7%
Campbell, WY 7.3% 8.1% 8.0% 8.9% 10.7%
Carbon, WY 13.9% 13.7% 13.2% 13.7% 14.4%
Converse, WY 13.3% 12.9% 13.0% 13.5% 15.5%
Crook, WY 14.0% 13.6% 13.9% 15.4% 17.2%
Fremont, WY 19.7% 20.0% 20.0% 21.5% 22.8%
Goshen, WY 20.0% 20.3% 20.1% 21.1% 21.7%
Hot Springs, WY 23.8% 23.1% 22.4% 22.5% 23.3%
Johnson, WY 16.2% 16.1% 15.7% 17.5% 18.6%
Laramie, WY 15.1% 15.1% 15.4% 16.0% 16.3%
Lincoln, WY 15.7% 15.7% 16.1% 16.8% 17.0%
Natrona, WY 10.5% 10.1% 9.2% 9.7% 10.7%
Niobrara, WY 19.8% 19.2% 17.2% 19.7% 20.6%
Park, WY 16.4% 17.0% 16.9% 17.0% 17.7%
Platte, WY 21.4% 21.1% 20.5% 21.7% 22.7%
Sheridan, WY 13.3% 15.1% 14.2% 15.7% 16.1%
Sublette, WY 8.0% 8.4% 8.7% 10.0% 11.4%
Sweetwater, WY 10.6% 10.8% 11.2% 11.8% 12.7%
Teton, WY 2.5% 2.7% 2.4% 2.6% 2.6%
Uinta, WY 14.0% 14.8% 15.3% 16.6% 17.7%
Washakie, WY 18.0% 18.2% 18.1% 19.0% 19.9%
Weston, WY 16.5% 16.9% 16.2% 17.4% 19.5%
Raw data sourceBureau of Economic Analysis

Highlighted counties have a dependency of more than 20 percent in 2016. As for the trend over time, it is most negative in Campbell, Sublette, Uinta, Crook and Sheridan, where the entitlement share of total personal income earned in the county, has gone up by more than one fifth since 2012. 

There is an important economic message in these numbers: with Wyoming residents growing increasingly dependent on entitlements, the room for higher taxes is shrinking accordingly. Even though the situation is somewhat different around the state, in an economy with a thriving private sector we would see a trend in the exact opposite direction. 

We have more county-based numbers to look at. However, this is all for today. Check back tomorrow!

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