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Winter employment slowdown normal, state analysts report

Mar 28, 2014 - From staff reports

Repeating its typical trend tied to the beginning of winter, Fremont County's unemployment rate worsened during the winter, rising from 5.1 percent in November to 6.6 in January. December's rate was 5.6 percent.

The 60-day increase is in line with previous years. Analysts with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services issued the January report later than expected, and the February data could be issued as soon as next week as staff catches up to its normal schedule.

In the January report, the latest available, analysts noted that "seasonal job losses often are seen in January in many sectors, including construction, retail trade, professional and business services, and government."

The state report noted a similar slowdown from November to December as cold weather settled in and put an end to the last of seasonal agricultural employment and the final remnants of warm-weather hospitality jobs.

Fremont County wasn't alone in rising unemployment in January. All told, 22 of the state's 23 counties experienced the same thing. The exception was Teton County, whose jobless rate went from 8.3 percent in November -- before winter skiing and snowmobiling began in earnest -- to 4.7 percent by January.

While the higher unemployment rate adheres to the seasonal norm, Fremont County's jobs market continued to outperform the 2013 figures, beginning with the unemployment rate itself. January's 6.6 percent figure compared to 7.8 percent in January 2013.

December's civilian labor force was larger by 520 workers over the same month a year earlier. By January that margin had shrunk, but the 19,850 workers Fremont County had available was still 227 more than December's figure.

Even with the rise in unemployment rate, which reflects the larger workforce coincident to the season job decrease, total employment in January managed a 71-job gain over December and stood 148 jobs ahead of January 2013 at 18,544.

The winter downturn showed up most clearly from December to January, when total unemployment rose from 1,090 to 1,306. Still, January's jobless total was 254 better than the 1,560 out of work in January 2013.

The county's work force remained fifth-largest in Wyoming, a spot is took over last year from Albany County (Laramie). At 19,850 trailed No. 4 Sweetwater County (Rock Springs/Green River) by about 600 workers. Laramie County (Cheyenne) and Natrona County (Casper) are the two largest, each with ore than 46,000 available workers. Niobrara County (Lusk) is the smallest at 1,349.

Fremont County's 6.6 percent jobless rate was the state's second highest in January, exceeded only by the 7.1 percent registered in Lincoln County (Kemmerer/Afton). That county also posted the biggest month-to-month increase. December's percentage there was 5.9.

Fremont County usually has one of the highest rates in Wyoming, a condition the state economists attribute to high unemployment on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The state's lowest unemployment rates were in Sublette County (Pinedale) at 3.6 percent, Converse County (Douglas) at 3.7 percent and Campbell County (Gillette) at 4.0 percent.

Thanks to the hiring mini-boom in Teton County (Jackson), Wyoming's unemployment rate actually shrank to 4.3 percent in January, down from 4.4 percent in December and 4.9 percent 12 months earlier.

Fremont County employment

Unemployment rate

January -- 6.6 percent

December -- 5.6 percent

January 2013 -- 7.8 percent

Total employment

January -- 18,544

December -- 18,473

January 2013 -- 18,396

Total unemployment

January -- 1,306

December -- 1,090

January 2013 -- 1,560

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