GILLETTE — The Cowboy State continued to see moderate job growth in the second quarter of 2019 with an increase of 5,051 jobs and $171 million in payroll, according to a report by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research and Planning division.
The overall growth of 1.8% was a good level and carried through in a number of employment sectors, said David Bullard, senior economist with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Campbell County saw an increase of 1.5%, or 373 jobs from 25,049 to 25,422, from the second quarter (April to June) of 2018 to the quarter in 2019, according to the report.
The largest gains, according to the state Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, were:
Oil and gas with 225 jobs, 1,603 to 1,828
Transportation and warehousing at 97, 790 to 887
Truck transportation with 94 jobs, 289 to 383
Campbell County’s total payroll increased by almost $11 million, or 3%, from about $354.8 million to $365.7 million. Weekly wages went up $17, or 1.6%, from $1,090 to $1,107.
The largest decreases in jobs were in heavy and civil engineering construction, 155, from 953 to 798; and mining, 107, from 4,014 to 3,907.
The second quarter numbers don’t reflect a major shakeup in Campbell County’s coal employment that began July 1 when nearly 600 Blackjewel LLC workers were locked out of their jobs when the company filed for bankruptcy. The mines were mostly shut down for more than three months before opening again with a new owner in October. Recently released federal mining reports show that while many workers were called back or jobs filled, the overall employment at the mines is lower than before the lockout.
“In general, I’d expect long-term declines in coal mining activity and associated jobs,” Bullard said, referring to continued weak pricing for Powder River Basin coal and reduced annual production. “I don’t know all the implications of that, (but) that is the general trend that I expect.”
Across the state, a bulk of the job increases were in the construction sector, which grew by 2,835 jobs, according to the report.
Converse County saw the greatest overall increase from 5,825 to 7,240. This can largely be attributed to an 843-job rise in construction employment to build pipelines, from 319 in second quarter 2018 to 1,162 in 2019.
“Half of the growth is in construction,” Bullard said. “That’s unusual and likely to be short-term so that kind of raises the question, ‘Where are we going to get the growth moving forward?’
“If you go back several years in Campbell County when they were building power plants, there was huge employment there, but as projects were completed, employment went away. I suspect Converse County will look similar.”
Goshen County saw the largest overall decrease in jobs, from 4,355 in 2018 to 4,203 in 2019. Sublette County’s payroll dropped the most in the second quarter of 2019, from $56 million to $54.7 million.
Early third quarter numbers show about a 4,750-job, or 1.7%, increase across the state with the largest gains in construction, about 2,900 jobs, according to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. Official numbers are scheduled to be released in May.
“It’s not really a meaningful slowdown there,” Bullard said about the projected 300-job decline from the second quarter to the third quarter. “A bigger concern to me is the construction. Construction jobs are actually up a little in the third quarter, (but) don’t expect it to last.”
He also expressed concerns about the oil and gas sector, which is expected to take a dip in the third quarter.
“Currently, the rig count is down and we’re seeing a decline by that measure,” Bullard said. “I think there is a lot of supply in the market and that is affecting prices.”