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Healthy gains in job market

Jul 7, 2013 - Staff

Fremont County's unemployment picture improved dramatically in May, with the unemployment rate reaching its lowest point in several years.

The improvement came about for the right reasons, as the county's workforce grew, more people had jobs, and fewer people were unemployed compared to both last month and last year.

Leading the positive statistical parade was the county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which dropped to 5.2 percent in May -- the latest month for which figures are available from the Wyoming Department of Work-force Services.

Below 6 percent

A month earlier the jobless rate in Fremont County stood at 6 percent, and a year earlier it was even higher at 6.1 percent.

The county's pool of available workers continues to grow as well, increasing by 154 since April and by 101 over the previous year. The state report put Fremont County's labor Force at 19,898, inching ever closer to the 20,000 mark -- a figure Fremont County's labor pool has never reached.

Total employment also was up for May. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services report showed that 18,872 people had work in Fremont County during May, up 317 from a month earlier and 258 more jobs than May 2012.

The total number of unemployed workers stood at 1,026. That's a decrease of 163 from April and 182 fewer than the 1,213 jobless counted in May of last year.

The state's employment researchers note that lower unemployment from April to May is typical across the state as job sectors including construction, professional services, hospitality, government and agriculture all pick up speed as the weather warms.

That observation makes the 12-month improvement in fremont County even more meaningful, as the jobless rate fell by nearly a full percentage point over the year.

Labor pool grows

The county's civilian work force remained the sixth-largest among Wyoming's 23 counties, a position it has held for several years, but Fremont County continued to put distance between itself and seventh-place Sheridan County (Sher-idan) and now outpaces that county's labor pool by more than 3,000. Fremont County now trails fifth-place Albany County (Laramie) by fewer than 1,000.

Laramie County, which includes Cheyenne, has the state's largest workforce at 45,713, followed by Natrona County (Casper) at 44,041.

Both those counties saw decreases in their work forces over the past month.

The state's smallest workforce by far is in Niobrara County (Lusk) at 1,417. Just 44 workers were reported jobless in Niobrara County in May.

At 5.2 percent, Fremont County's unemployment rate was third-highest in Wyoming, trailing Teton County's (Jackson) 6.4 percent and Lincoln County's (Kemmerer) 5.3 percent. Teton County's tourist-based job market figures to improve drastically by the time the June figures are released.

In a rarity, Sublette County (Pinedale) did not have the state's lowest jobless rate during the month. That distinction falls to Niobrara County at just 3.1 percent. Sublette was close behind at 3.2 percent. Converse County - Douglas - also registered 3.2 percent unemployment.

Wyoming's statewide jobless rate dropped to 4.6 percent in May from the 4.8 percent posted in April.

Wyoming's unemployment percentage is still significantly better than the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, which also has been falling this year.

All 23 Wyoming counties experienced unemployment rate drops for the month, which the state analysts said suggests modest improvement in the state's economy once seasonal factors are taken out the calculation.

The department notes that the jobless figures are based on the number of workers either receiving or eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits from the state.

They do not reflect workers who have quit seeking jobs, and the analysts say the monthly figures are most useful in tracking month-to-month trends.

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