Overall, living in Johnson County costs about 95% of the state’s average cost of living.
That’s according to the most recent Wyoming Cost of Living Index released in October. Johnson County tied with Fremont County for the 11th lowest cost of living of the state’s 23 counties.
According to the index, housing is one of the least expensive categories in the county. The county scored an 85% on the Wyoming Cost of Living Index in the housing category. Teton County scored the highest in the housing category at a whopping 217% above the state average. Big Horn and Goshen counties tied with the lowest score at 77%.
The index is specific to the state, according to Amy Bittner, principal economist with the Economic Analysis Division of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information.
Twice a year since 1979, information is collected on prices for goods and services in six categories: medical, apparel, housing, food, recreation and personal care, and transportation, according to Bittner.
According to the second quarter 2019 index, Wyoming experienced an inflation rate of 2% over the past year.
The state saw cost increases in four categories: medical, 5%; apparel, 3.6%; housing, 2.7%; and food, 2.3%.
Recreation and personal care had reductions of 0.3%, and transportation costs decreased by 0.8%.
Johnson County’s highest category is apparel at 118% of the statewide average. That means that the cost of buying clothes in the county is, on average, 18% above the state average, making it the third highest in the state. Park County’s apparel costs are 120% above the state average, and Teton County’s are 123% above the state average.
But that’s nothing new, according to Bittner.
“These (numbers) are pretty typical for Johnson County,” Bittner said. “Johnson County usually has higher apparel numbers. I think Johnson County falls into the same area every time.”
Bittner reminds residents that those numbers don’t necessarily indicate a price increase within the category but are a reflection of how local prices compare with those across the entire state.
The Johnson County apparel average is also affected by the closing of Buffalo’s Shopko Hometown store in June 2019.
“The number of stores and type of stores in an area will affect the average costs in an area,” Bittner said. “For example, areas that have big-box-type stores may have lower apparel costs.”
Frequency of sales is also a factor that determines those averages.
To determine the information, data is collected from 28 cities and towns across the state. The largest city or town in each county is priced, along with any other city or town with a population greater than 5,000 people.
In Johnson County, Buffalo is the only city surveyed. Most counties only have one town surveyed, with the exception being Lincoln County, which measures both Afton and Kemmerer.
“We take what we call a standard basket of consumer goods,” Bittner said. “What a consumer would purchase, and they fall into six categories.”
From those six categories, 140 items are chosen to represent the wide varieties of consumer items throughout the state.
The 140 consumer items surveyed are separated into the six categories, which are then “weighted” using item weights from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, reflective of their overall importance in the average consumer’s budget.