Volume 105, Number 24 - June 12, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Jonathan Van Dyke
Sublette County has seen its weekly wages jump by 22.9 percent between the third quarters of 2006 and 2007, from $784 to $963, and employment numbers have increased by 19.6 percent, according to the research and planning section of the Wyoming Department of Employment.
“It’s good to see [both employment numbers and wages] going up,” said David Bullard, senior economist for the research and planning section.
While Sublette County has recently become known for its extreme changes, the numbers are still eye-opening.
“I think both [numbers] are pretty surprising,” said Jeffrey Jacquet, socioeconomic analyst for the Sublette Community Partnership. “It makes me think maybe they weren’t counting certain populations in the past.”
Jacquet wondered if more workers who had been working in the area might be gaining residency, inflating the numbers more rapidly.
However, Bullard clarified that the numbers were taken by place of work, not residency. He countered that numbers may be up some because of moving industry from Bighorn County to Sublette.
“Their work had basically moved and so we moved where they were reporting,” Bullard said.
Both agreed that wage increases were a good thing for Sublette.
“Given the cost of living in the area, it’s definitely good when wages come close to approaching it,” Jacquet said.
Bullard acknowledged that the information was another barometer for one of the fastest growing areas in the state.
“What we’re seeing is growth and good paying jobs, and that’s good for the state,” he added.
The numbers also point to a rising problem facing the county: economic diversity. “That’s the most worrying aspect,” Jacquet said. “It’s that much harder to attract and retain people in the non-mining industries.”
The mining industry, which includes the energy industry, averages $1,500 in weekly wages as opposed to the food services and accommodation industry, which averages almost $400 in weekly wages.
“Some of that just reflects different hours and skill sets,” Bullard said. “There are a lot of reasons wages are different across those different sectors. I think [the mining industry] is paying people what they have to in order to get people, and to get them to stay on the job.”
Bullard noted that his section’s numbers were derived from weekly wages alone, not factoring in varying hours of different jobs. Still, a wage gap can hurt locally.
“Often, those are the people that make it a good place to live, the people providing services and culture,” Jacquet said. “Employment in the services and entertainment sectors has really remained stagnant as far as the number of employees.”
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