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The numbers agree

Jan 23, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

There is only one explanation for Fremont County's improved jobs picture

Every time there is a good report on the unemployment rate nationally, there is a corresponding analysis of the newest figures intended to dampen enthusiasm. The old "yes but" method of covering news is at its most obvious when the economy is being discussed.

In Wyoming, there's no use trying that stuff -- at least when unemployment is the topic. Everything about the latest jobs report in the state looks good, and there's nothing ambiguous about it.

As the national reporters always point out, a slight improvement in unemployment might not matter statistically. That's a non-factor in Fremont County, where the one-month improvement was .4 percent and the year-to-year improvement was .7 percent. Those percentages are well beyond any statistical accident.

The naysayers also point out that the jobless rate can look better simply because unemployed workers give up looking. If they aren't checking in with job service centers or claiming unemployment compensation, then they aren't counted.

But Fremont County dodges that analytical bullet as well. There were more people in our job market at year's end, not fewer. Almost 400 more workers are in the county's labor force this year compared to last.

Always looking for an angle, the number crunchers point out that the unemployment rate actually can go down even when employment is flat or up slightly, again because fewer people are looking for work and so are not counted as "unemployed."

Fremont County can't be hair-split in that way either. There were 505 more people on the job here at the end of 2013 than a year earlier.

The most obvious way to undermine optimistic job numbers is to assign them to seasonal factors. If it's a warmer winter, then more construction workers can stay on the job. If the growing season starts sooner or ends later than expected, more agricultural jobs can be had. When summer arrives, tourism-related jobs go up. These are either accidents or constants, say the economists, not true indicators of an improved economy.

Again, Fremont County stands that objection on its ear. The county has seen steady jobs improvement, month after month, over the previous year -- too often to have it explained away as mere coincidence. There are 505 more people drawing wages in our county than there were 12 months ago, and it can't be explained away as a fluke.

The point here isn't that the employment analysts are wrong to point out these less-obvious but very real factors that influence the numbers, but rather that Fremont County, happily, isn't being affected by them in its newest jobs report. The unemployment rate is down, the work force is at an all-time high, there are more people at work, and there are fewer people out of work.

For once, the numbers add up, balance out, and point unanimously to the same conclusion: Fremont County's job market is better than it has been in years.

That is reason for optimism, and optimistic employers do more hiring. Instead of second-guessing the improvement, let's celebrate it -- and, more importantly, build on it.

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