By Bill Conroy
What the locals say
Wyoming is fueled up and ready to grow.
Wyoming earned the nickname The Equality State by leading the nation in
granting women the right to vote, way back in 1869, when Wyoming was still
a territory. Wyoming became the 44th state to join the union about 20 years
later, in 1890 — bringing with it a storied cowboy history that includes heroes
of the West like William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, as well as antiheroes like Henry
Longabaugh — better known as the Sundance Kid, who was Butch Cassidy’s
Today, Wyoming is the nation’s leading producer of coal and uranium and
ranks among the top 10 states in the production of natural gas and crude
oil. The state produces about 40 percent of all coal extracted in the U.S. and
produces some 60 percent of all uranium ore used to fuel nuclear power
plants nationwide, according to the U. S. Energy Information Administration.
In fact, mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction is the largest industry
in the state by a long shot, accounting for 20. 3 percent of Wyoming’s gross
domestic product (GDP), according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The state’s heavy economic reliance on the energy sector has proven a boon
when the fossil-fuel industry is doing well and an anchor holding the state’s
prosperity back when energy prices are low, as was the case in 2016, when
Wyoming’s GDP contracted by 1.8 percent and its employment ranks shrank by
some 11,000 jobs in a state that has a population of only some 579,000 people.
Last year, however, Wyoming’s economy began to rebound as the energy
sector started to bounce back from a two-year slump. Over the first three
quarters of 2017, the state’s economy expanded consistently — posting
0.9 percent annualized GDP growth in the first quarter, followed by
7. 6 percent and 2.5 percent annualized GDP growth in the second and third
quarters of last year, respectively.
In addition to the energy sector, other important industries in Wyoming
include tourism, manufacturing and agriculture — although all three combined still do not account for the same percentage of GDP as does the energy
sector. Tourism supports some 32,000 full- and part-time jobs in Wyoming
and attracts about 8. 5 million overnight visitors annually, according to the
Wyoming Office of Tourism.
Wyoming also has a thriving agricultural sector. The state is a leading producer
of beef and other livestock and has nearly three times as many cattle as people.
Another of Wyoming’s economic engines is manufacturing, which represents about 5. 9 percent of the states’ economy, with a total output of some
$2.24 billion in 2016, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. n
Home sales and prices
Home values in Wyoming generally have been sloping upward since
2011, but did flatten out between 2015 and 2016, before rebounding
again last year, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance
Agency (FHFA). Homebuilding activity, as measured by building permits
issued, generally has been trending upward since 2009, although it has
not rebounded to levels seen prior to the recession and did drop off
slightly in 2016 and 2017.
In the wake of the energy-sector slump in 2015 and 2016, Wyoming’s
population experienced a net out-migration of some 8,300 individuals.
As the energy sector began to rebound last year, so did Wyoming’s employment numbers and home prices. Home prices in Wyoming jumped
by about 4.1 percent in 2017, FHFA figures show. Zillow put the median
value of a home in the state at $202,500 as of this past February.
Wyoming Housing Trends
Sources: Federal Housing Finance Agency and the U. S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development
Annual single-family residential
Home Price Index
score as of Q4*
*Based on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan data; Q1 1991 equals 100
Principal economist, Economic Analysis
Division, Wyoming Department of
Administration and Information
“We had a downturn here in the state in 2016 with the econ
omy. We have recovered since then, with oil prices improving.
In Cheyenne [the state’s largest market and capital] we
saw a rise in permits for single-family homes [last year]. …
In Casper [the state’s second largest city], however, not so much.
It’s still experiencing housing-price weakness … because it is
more dependent on the mining sector. Cheyenne, by contrast,
was more insulated from the downturn because it has a big
state-government footprint and its mining sector is smaller,
so the city was not as affected by [job] layoffs.”