Volume 104, Number 34 - August 23, 2007
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Yo! Sublette County, you’re getting younger
Wyoming’s demand for labor produced a significant swell of minorities and young workers in mineral-rich counties over the past six years, according to the state’s 2006 census.
The minority population across the state increased by 7,740, or 14.4 percent, starkly higher than the state’s overall population increase of only 4.3 percent. Hispanics proved the highest growing minority, increasing to 35,729 across the state in 2006, a 12.8 percent difference from 2000.
Sublette County saw a 75 percent increase in the Hispanic population to 84. Wyoming still contains one of the lowest minority populations in the country, said Wenlin Liu, Senior Economist with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, but the number will likely increase as long as basic labor jobs branch off from oil and gas production.
“Service-type labor, construction and mining jobs, even recreation and tourist-related jobs appeal to most (Hispanics), because most of these jobs don’t require higher education,” Liu said. The median age in the state population only rose to 37 from 36, a slip of change from the figure that’s remained stagnant since 2003.
But the median age in Johnson, Sweetwater, Natrona, Sublette and Sweetwater counties — the state’s leading counties in mineral production — declined in the same three years, as young roughnecks migrated to oil rigs lining the southwest region of the state. The number of 20-somethings in Sublette County more than doubled to 1,135 from 539 in the six-year span, while older age ranges only increased slightly.
“That’s definitely attributed to both oiland gas jobs, and also indirect jobs that oil and gas created,” said Jeffrey Jacquet, socioeconomic analyst hired by the BLM to investigate the oil and gas industry’s impact in the state.
Both sexes in Sublette County increased at a nearly identical number just over 4 percent, the male population rising to 3,744 from 3,023, and the female population expanding to 3,615 from 2,897.
Although Sublette County citizens might only observe a surging male population in the stream of gritty trucks driving to the rigs every morning, most of these men are migrant workers and not taken into account in the census.
“A certain segment of the (male) population isn’t going to want to remain transient, they want to live close to where they work, and I’m sure a lot of them are moving here probably with their families,” Jacquet said. “One thing that will be interesting is as these younger families move into the community, they’ll start obviously having kids, which will drop the age difference a little more.”
The statistics show a vast transformation in Sublette County, which held a reputation as an older community and a magnet for retirees until about 2002, Liu said.
“(Wyoming’s) almost at least temporarily out of the aging trend, but we see it has potential to age more later because Wyoming as a whole is a rural populated state, and young educated people tend to move to bigger cities, which is a definite disadvantage to Wyoming,” Liu said.
In about five years, baby boomers will also start to retire, he added, which will probably add significantly to the number of Wyoming seniors, or people 65 and older. But Jacquet predicted the next few years would see throngs of the young and ambitious still flocking to exploit the Wyoming job market.
“I think these are probably trends that will continue, because a lot of the same factors are in play and will continue to be in play,” Jacquet said
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