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Wold Drilling

Ron Auflick, head of operations and "chief roughneck" for Wold Energy Partners, walks through the rig in October outside of Rolling Hills. Figures released later this month are expected to show how many jobs have returned since the end of the bust.

Wyoming will have to wait a few weeks to see how many jobs have returned due to increased oil and gas activities, according to state economists.

In a snapshot of the state economy, the mining sector continued to show marginal improvements through February, with more rigs out in the oil and gas fields and a relatively stable price of crude. But how many jobs the state gained since the start of the year is unclear as federal statistics won’t be released until closer to the end of the month.

The biggest takeaway from Wyoming’s economy heading into spring is that commodity prices are pulling back slightly, said Jim Robinson, principle economist at the state’s Economic and Analysis Division.

Industry sentiment had been that the price increases of the last six months would likely have limits, he said.

“Right now it looks like that ceiling is around the $60 to $62 for West Texas Intermediate,” he said of the national spot price. “That seems to be where the price is fluctuating in the last year or so. But that is certainly an improvement compared to where that mark was a year ago.”

Wyoming’s mining sector is the leading source of sales and use tax income, a portion of the revenue picture that has swelled as oil prices improved.

Mining contributed 78 percent more income over the last seven months than it did in the previous period — from the end of 2016 into 2017 — when industry was still aching from a bust in commodity prices. Mining sales and use taxes, which include coal and oil and gas industry spending, accounted for $30.4 million more in the first seven months of fiscal year 2018 than the corresponding time period in fiscal year 2017.

Mining industries’ contribution to the whole is also gaining ground. The industries make up 16 percent of the total sales and use tax collections, up from 13 percent last summer, but still below the boom time share of nearly a quarter of sales and use revenue.

The mining sector only accounts for about 7 percent of statewide employment, but the comparatively small job numbers are “mighty in terms of revenue being generated,” Robinson said.

Economists expect job numbers in mining to correspond to the growth visible in taxes and rig counts, he said.

“Our data is just not there yet,” he said. “We are just going to have to be patient and wait for those numbers.”

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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