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Employment zooming across Fremont County

Jan 13, 2014 - Staff

Ongoing improvement in Fremont County employment moved from the steady to the spectacular in November, with big gains in the jobless rate, work force and total employment.

The county's unemployment rate dipped to 5.1 percent, lowest in five years.

It dropped from 5.5 percent in October and, more significantly, fell from 5.8 percent a year earlier.

Year-to-year comparisons are considered more telling because they aren't influenced by seasonal changes in the job market tied to agriculture, tourism and outdoor construction that kick in several times during the calendar year regardless of other conditions.

Across the board

In November, the latest month for which comprehensive figures are available from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, the civilian labor force in Fremont County reached what is believed to be an all-time high -- 20,262. That's 247 more than October's count and an increase of 389 from October 2012, when the work force was 19,873.

Total employment also jumped in November, up by 304 over the month to 19,220 and a whopping 505 more jobs than 21 months earlier.

The gains aren't just mathematical technicalities, as evidenced by the total number of unemployed in November.

Fremont County's state job centers calculated 1,042 jobless for the month, 57 fewer than October's number.

Over the year, the jobless count decreased 116 from 1,158 listed as out of work in November 2012.

Big gains since '10

The job market in the county is now improved markedly from the recession, which by most measures was at its worst in Fremont County during 2010. The work force, for example, is now nearly 1,200 workers larger than it was four years ago, when Fremont County had 19,072 workers and a jobless rate of 7.0 percent.

The gains are even bigger in the actual number of jobs -- up nearly 1,500 from the 17,739 on the job in November 2010. And there are 291 fewer people out of work in Fremont County now compared to the same month in 2010.

At 20,262, Fremont County's labor pool was the sixth-largest in Wyoming, which has 23 counties. In October the county had surpassed Albany County (Laramie) for fifth place on that list, but Albany County inched back ahead in November, numbering 86 more available workers than Fremont.

The partial federal government shutdown played a role in the October comparison because Laramie and the University of Wyoming had a significant number of workers affected by the federal action.

Fremont County remains far ahead of the next-largest labor county, Sheridan, which had 16,287 workers in November. Laramie County (Cheyenne) and Natrona County (Casper) have by far the largest work forces. Natrona tops 44,000 workers, and Laramie County has more than 46,000.

The smallest labor force is in Niobrara County (Lusk), and 1,391.

Second-highest rate

Even with the healthy gains in November, Fremont County had the highest jobless rate in the state other than neighboring Teton County, whose 8.1 percent figure was far and away the highest in the state as that tourism-heavy county still adjusted to the end of warm-weather tourism.

Teton's rate jumped from 5.4 percent in October.

In the warm months of the year, Teton has one of the two or three lowest unemployment rates when tourism in the area is at its peak.

As it has for years, Sublette County (Pinedale) had the lowest jobless rate in November at an even 3 percent. Sublette, which also borders Fremont County, say its work force shrink compared to November 2012.

Another Fremont border county, Hot Springs (Thermopolis), had a jobless percentage of 4.1 percent, down half a point over the year and with a grown in the labor pool to 2,598.

Statewide, the unemployment figure was unchanged at 4.2 percent, although it fell slightly if seasonal adjustments were considered.

A year earlier the rate was 4.9 percent statewide. The 4.2 percent is the lowest statewide rate since January 2009.

The state's unemployment report is based on the number of Wyoming residents receiving or eligible to receive unemployment compensation.

It does not reflect workers whose jobless benefits have expired or who are no seeking work actively.

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