Johnson County’s unemployment rate fell from 3.7% in October 2018 to 2.8% in October 2019, the largest year-over-year decrease in the state. According to the latest report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, the county’s October 2019 unemployment rate of 2.8% was a slight dip from the September 2019 rate of 2.9%. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.8% in October, down from 4.2% in October 2018.
David Bullard, senior economist with the Department of Workforce Services, said that Johnson County’s labor force and number of employed people was basically flat from 2018 to 2019.
In October 2018, the county’s labor force – the number of employed and unemployed persons – numbered 4,265; in October 2019 the labor force was 4,251. During the same time, the number of people employed in Johnson County rose from 4,113 to 4,130.
Bullard said he could not speculate why Johnson County’s unemployment numbers dipped year over year, but that it might be a part of an overall statewide trend.
At 2.8% unemployment in the county, Bullard said, the county has probably achieved “full employment” – a term economists use to denote that each person in the county who wants a job has a job.
According to Bullard, “2.8% is very low, and I imagine that employers are having challenges finding workers. The community is relatively isolated, and there is a limited number of people.”
Bullard said that service industry employers may find it especially challenging to hire workers due to the county’s small population and the driving distance from Buffalo to either Gillette or Sheridan. He added that the commute from either town is too far to make it economically feasible for most service industry wages.
As winter sets in and construction work and tourism both slow, Bullard said, he anticipates unemployment will climb.
“Given the weather, we expect unemployment to come up in November,” Bullard said. “I do expect unemployment to go up in November in most of the counties. Looking at the statewide picture, the bright spot is the oil and gas pipeline construction, but we know that’s not going to last very long. Usually those projects are completed rather quickly.”