Residential building permits in Wyoming are down nearly 13 percent compared to last year, driven by a dramatic 48 percent drop in Casper, according to Jim Robinson, an economist with the state’s Economic Analysis Division.
“I still think there’s probably some room for modest growth statewide for building,” Robinson said. But in areas hit by the energy bust, like Natrona County, home construction won’t return until industry does.
Robinson said housing numbers mirrored the overall economic shape of different regions of the state: Cheyenne has seen an 11 percent climb in new building permits over the last year.
Cheyenne has a diverse private sector built on transportation, financial services and high-tech whereas Casper’s mainstays — energy and health care — have been hit in the downturn, Robinson said. The slowdown in mines has then spilled over into other sectors.
Tax collection in Natrona County remains down 21.7 percent over last year. Laramie County is down just 11.4 percent.
Jobs in the mining and logging industry, which Casper relies on, are down nearly 20 percent this year. Cheyenne’s job loss has remained essentially flat, insulated by positions in state government and from the F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
“Cheyenne has less of the mining but they do have more of the government jobs so that’s certainly a stabilizer,” Robinson said.
In that sense Natrona County’s steep decline in new building permits is a reflection of larger economic trends.
“You really get the tale of two cities right now,” Robinson said.
The decline in residential construction came in new single family homes. Multifamily construction actually received slightly more permits — increasing from 132 in 2015 to 149 this year — but Robinson said a single project can often sway multifamily permit numbers.
There were 1,316 new residential building permits issued statewide through September this year compared to 1,507 permits issued at the same point last year.
The numbers were released last week.