From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 50 - December 11, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Local employment numbers still healthy

by Jonathan Van Dyke

Sublette County continues to boast Wyoming’s lowest unemployment rate, but the county is beginning to show it is not totally immune to the national recession.

For the month of October, the county had a 1.5 percent unemployment rate, up from 1.1 percent during the same month last year, according to statistics released by the Wyoming Department of Employment Research and Planning (WDERP).

“It looks like Sublette County still has the lowest unemployment rate in all of our counties, but unemployment has crept up a little bit from a year ago, even statewide,” said David Bullard, senior economist for WDERP.

While the county’s labor force rose by nine from September to October of this year, there were only four more workers employed. The county’s total unemployed is 106.

“I think with this job increase, there’s somewhat of a lag because the global recession is just now starting to hit Sublette County,” said Michael Coburn, socioeconomic analyst for the Sublette Community Partnership. “Employment will probably lay flat for a while.”

However, while the county is leveling off somewhat, it is still taking on more workers.

“I think it just demonstrates again that Sublette County has remained somewhat insulated from the economic woes that have befallen the country elsewhere,” Coburn said. “Things are going to tighten up. Sublette County won’t remain completely isolated and unaffected.”

For now, it appears that some of the energy industry will begin to scale back, if only a little. Recently, EnCana began to discuss a hiring freeze, Coburn said.

“I think the other operators are going to follow suit, and rig counts are going to be down over the next few years,” he added.

If the recession does begin to hit home, the county may see only small changes.

“The most noticeable change from that could be a leveling off of population with a lower amount of transient workers,” Coburn said.

Those temporary roughneck jobs might go elsewhere, he added. The service sector, where jobs have been in high demand for some time in the county, would probably be the last sector to feel an impact.

Looking across the state, only one sector took anywhere near a dramatic fall.

“Earlier in the year we were showing extremely fast growth in construction and that has leveled off in recent months,” Bullard said.

He also noted that job growth, in general, saw somewhat of a peak in 2006.

“It’s been moderating since then,” Bullard added.

Still, Wyoming as a whole continued to see a solid job growth rate.

“Overall, a three percent job growth rate is the fastest in the nation,” Bullard said.

For Sublette County, all eyes will be on the constantly fluctuating energy industry. If that industry were to falter, then Wyoming could see the greater economic ramifications.

“Energy prices are very important to Wyoming’s economy,” Bullard said. “How quickly things adjust, I don’t know.”

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